"I had moments of doubting myself, and wanting to quit, because I didn’t know that there would be a future for an African-American woman to make it to this level," Copeland said at a news conference June 30. "At the same time, it made me so hungry to push through, to carry the next generation. So it’s not me up here — and I'm constantly saying that — it’s everyone that came before me that got me to this position." Copeland was born in Kansas City, MO, and raised in San Pedro, CA. She began her ballet studies at the age of 13 at the San Pedro City Ballet and won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She continued her studies at the Lauridsen Ballet Center. Copeland studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000. Copeland joined ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000 and joined the main Company as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001. She was appointed a soloist in August 2007.
Copeland received the 2008 Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts and was named National Youth of the Year Ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2013. In 2014, President Obama appointed Copeland to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. She is the recipient of a 2014 Dance Magazine Award and appeared on the cover of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015. She is the author of the best-selling memoir, "Life in Motion" and the children’s book "Firebird."
Stella Abrera was also promoted to the rank of principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, and Skylar Brandt, Thomas Forster, Arron Scott and Cassandra Trenary have been promoted to soloist effective Aug. 1. Maria Kochetkova, a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, and Alban Lendorf, a principal dancer with Royal Danish Ballet, will join the Company as principal dancers, and Jeffrey Cirio, a principal dancer with Boston Ballet, will join ABT as a soloist.