What’s Misty Copeland’s story? How did she become the first African-American woman to be named principal dancer – ballet’s highest title – at the American Ballet Theatre, one of the top classical ballet companies in the world? Ballet fans and dancers can hear her tell it when Copeland comes to Northrop next spring for a special event.
“Inspired: A Conversation With Misty Copeland” will take place March 31 on Northrop’s stage. Robyne Robinson will be the master of ceremonies and Lea Thompson will be a featured guest. Proceeds will benefit Northrop’s expanding youth programming.
Born in Kansas, raised in California, Copeland began her ballet studies at the late (for ballet) age of 13. Overcoming many hardships as a young girl, she joined ABT’s studio company in 2000 and became a member of the corps in 2001. In 2007, she rose to soloist, ABT’s second African-American female soloist and the first in two decades.
In June 2015, Copeland was promoted to principal dancer, a history-making milestone in the company’s 75-year history and ballet in general. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world and put her on the cover.
Soon after her promotion, Copeland told CNN, “I had moments of doubting myself and wanting to quit because I didn’t know there would be a future for an African-American woman to make it to this level.”
Robinson is a former Twin Cities news anchor for KMSP/Fox 9. Later this month, she’ll be inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame, the first person of color to receive that honor. A champion of the arts, Robinson most recently oversaw the arts program at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, enlivening the space and greeting visitors with public art installations and performances.
Thompson, a Minnesota native, is best known for her roles in “Back to the Future” (as Lorraine McFly) and “Caroline in the City.” Before then, she was a professional ballet dancer who performed in more than 45 ballets with the Minnesota Dance Theatre, many on Northrop’s stage.
Northrop’s youth programs provide low-cost tickets and subsidized busing so more students can attend dance performances. Nearly 10,000 fifth- through 12th-graders will see a performance at Northrop in 2018-19.
Tickets to “Inspired: A Conversation With Misty Copeland” ($20-100) will go on sale to the public next Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. A limited number of VIP tickets ($250) will include a pre-show reception and photo op with Copeland. FMI; 612-624-2345.
ABT will perform at Northrop on Tuesday, April 2, nearly five years to the day when the company danced for Northrop’s grand reopening after a three-year, $88.2-million redo. Will Copeland be there? Fingers are crossed – she will be traveling with the company – but we won’t know for sure until the final casting is announced. On Wednesday, March 27, at 6:30 p.m., Northrop will screen the Misty Copeland biopic “A Ballerina’s Tale” in the Best Buy Theater for free.
In other Northrop news, there’s been a change in leadership. After six years as Northrop’s director (2012-18) – a job that encompassed the annual dance season and everything else happening there – Christine Tschida is now artistic director of the dance series. Tschida came on when Northrop was under construction. She coordinated the myriad activities of the grand reopening and presided over the next four years of programming. In her new role, she’ll focus on the international dance program and the newly restored organ.
Kari Schloner is Northrop’s new director. She joined Northrop as general manager in 2016, overseeing business operations. Before then, she held positions in various nonprofit and for-profit organizations, gaining experience in venue and event management, promotion, production and touring. Schloner aims to build U of M and community partnerships and expand Northrop’s impact throughout Minnesota.
Now at the Minnesota History Center: “Chinese-ness: Photographs by Wing Young Huie.” A newly minted McKnight Distinguished Artist, Huie usually trains his lens on others. In his latest book for the Minnesota Historical Society Press, due out Nov. 1, he explores the meanings of identity and the nature of belonging through his own life and what it might have been. The youngest of six children born to Chinese immigrants – and the only one born in the United States – Huie grew up in Duluth and first visited China in 2010. He found both places confusing. For “Chinese-ness,” he photographed and interviewed people of Chinese descent and those influenced by Chinese-ness. In a series of diptychs, he wore the clothes of Chinese men whose lives he could have lived. It’s conceptual, kind of dizzying and wildly illuminating. You can see the exhibit for free in the Irvine Community Gallery during regular History Center hours. Ends Nov. 11. Related events: A free community panel discussion with Huie on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 7-9 p.m. A “What Do You See?” gathering at Huie’s Third Place Gallery on Saturday, Sept. 22, 10 a.m.-noon. A book launch on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 7-9 p.m.
Thursday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: MinnAnimate 7. The seventh annual showcase of made-in-Minnesota animation will have two screenings: Youth and Student Films at 6:45 p.m. and the Independent Animation Showcase at 7:30 p.m. Each will be followed by a Q&A. The Youth and Student reel includes 15 shorts on topics ranging from grief to the lives of dust bunnies. Among the 18 films in the Showcase are Robert Jersak’s “Big Women,” in which a nerd dad mansplains the classics, and Mike and Wendie Owens’ “Thursday Night in Rancho de Las Rocas.” One ticket gets you into both shows. FMI and tickets ($9.50-$5).
Opens Friday at the Uptown: “Pick of the Litter.” Subtitled “A Service Dogumentary,” this film takes you behind the scenes to see how adorable puppies become life-changing guide dogs for the blind. Eight hundred dogs are born to specially chosen breeders each year; just 300 make the cut. We follow five – Potomac, Patriot, Poppet, Primrose and Phil – through the two-year process of testing, training and evaluating. Humans are needed at every stage, from the volunteers who foster them (and, of course, fall in love with them, though they know they can’t keep them) to the specialists who determine their fitness for the job (a dog dropped from the program is said to be “career changed”). The film falls a little short in showing the actual work it takes to train these dogs, and before then, to train the trainers. But the rewards of seeing dogs and humans paired as lifelong companions makes this a forgivable offense. FMI and tickets (prices vary). The 7 p.m. Friday show includes a Q&A with a puppy-raising leader, a guide dog handler, and Figaro, a guide dog.
Opens Saturday at Artistry: “Awake and Sing!” Clifford Odets’ classic play about a Bronx Jewish family during the Great Depression was first produced in 1935. It still speaks truth to things that matter: family, morality, dignity, the struggle to survive in uncertain times, hope for the future. Directed by Benjamin McGovern, Artistry’s production features Ryan London Levin (“The Last Five Years”), Paul Rutledge (“Noises Off”), Kate Guentzel (Ivey winner for the Illusion’s “My Antonia;” Penumbra’s “Dutchman”), and Miriam Schwartz (a regular at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company; “Indecent” at the Guthrie). The play is in the black box, where some performances have already sold out. FMI and tickets ($46-15). Ends Oct. 7.
Sunday at the Jungle Theater: Jazz at the Jungle: “Hot Rhythm and Happy Feet.” Jazz vocalist Connie Evingson has made the Jungle in Lyn-Lake her second home with her long-running Sunday jazz series. Backed by top Twin Cities musicians and frequent visitor Jon Weber, Evingson performs imaginative programs around the music of Duke Ellington, American roots music, Ella Fitzgerald, Brazilian music, the Beatles and whatever else catches her fancy. This Sunday features music you might have heard in a dance hall, café or speakeasy anytime between 1920 and 1940: early blues, Gypsy jazz, pop songs, New Orleans tunes. Her band this time is Patty and the Buttons, led by the brilliant button accordionist Patrick Harison. 4 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30).