Directed by Nelson George (Finding the Funk), the crowdfunded film focuses on Copeland’s career highlights and challenges, as well as the group of successful older black women who have mentored her along the way.
A Ballerina’s Tale “intimately documents Copeland’s historic rise while shining a light on the absence of women of color at major ballet companies,” says PBS. It “also explores how ballet’s emphasis on waifish bodies impacts the health of ballerinas while sending a negative message to young fans.”
In the clip above, Copeland learns she has a career-threatening lower leg stress fracture. While it is a common injury for people who jump frequently, it was one many did not expect her to come back from.
Despite having the “wrong background” and “wrong body type” for classical ballet, she was promoted to soloist at the American Ballet Theatre in 2007, making her the first black dancer to hold that title in two decades.
She outdid herself last year when she became the first black woman to dance the dual role of Odette/Odile in ABT’s Swan Lake, and was named the first Afro-American female principal dancer for the company days later.
Also narrated by Copeland, A Ballerina’s Tale made its world premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival in April.
It was given a VOD and limited theatrical release in October via Sundance Selects, and it became available on DVD/Blu-ray this month through MPI HOME VIDEO.
In December, the film won “Best Documentary” from the African American Film Critics Association.
See a preview below and watch A Ballerina’s Tale when it airs on PBS’ Independent Lens on Monday, February 8, 2016 at 10 PM EST.