She made me feel positively about my body, because she talks about body positivity, and she’s not doing dance to change her body. She’s doing it because she loves it and it’s how she expresses her emotions. That’s why I dance, too. — Shania Gordon, 15, co-CEO and co-founder of Brown Ballerinas for Change
“She’s different from other dancers”
In sports like cheer and gymnastics and dance, you see all these kids starting at age two and three, and I couldn’t do that because my family couldn’t afford it. Her story is cool because she started at an older age, and she’s obviously been able to overcome that. I started a little later than most, and that just pushes me to work harder each day, because I wasn’t born into that training. I think it’s inspiring how much she grew in such a short amount of time, compared to other dancers who had a head start on her.
Obviously, she’s different from other dancers, and ballet is still a very white artform. I’ve grown up in a white area and I’m very much a minority. I feel like her example has influenced and inspired other dancers to use their voices. — Sophia, 17, co-CEO and co-founder of Brown Ballerinas for Change
“There will always be a need for her voice”
As a ballet mom, she gives my daughter someone to look for. Representation absolutely matters. I know people are tired of hearing people say that, but it is so important. Little girls and little boys need someone who looks like them doing the thing that it is that they want to do. Misty is one of the very few people in recent times who has been able to jump in front and be seen. It makes other girls know that oh, if she did it, it’s possible for me to do it too.
She’ll always have a place in the dance community as a mentor. She’s a great mentor to a lot of dancers, professional and budding. But her example inspires people in all kinds of fields. How do you navigate this world where you don’t feel like you fit in? How do you navigate these rooms where you may feel uncomfortable but you still have to show out? There will always be a need for her voice in these conversations; she has solidified her place in dance history. — TaKiyah Wallace, founder, Brown Girls Do Ballet
“She reinvigorated a conversation that needed to be had”
When I joined [American Ballet Theatre], Misty was still a soloist, and she was kind of a mentor from afar. She was very supportive of me whenever I would see her. She was also very helpful when it came to understanding the responsibilities of my position as a featured Black dancer at ABT, given that there weren’t any besides me and her and Calvin Royal III at the time. We needed to lead by example. To work hard and be our best and be there every day.
It was difficult for me, and I think it’s difficult for a lot of people in ballet to speak out, because not only are we all trained not to speak back or speak up, but on top of it because Black people are so scarce, it’s difficult to feel comfortable, especially when you’re not in a position of power like a higher rank. More recently, I found my voice. I think it was more because of the Black Lives Matter movement and being fed up with being stuck with a racist regime.
Her presence, her personality, what she brought to the forefront as an artist and an activist—she will be the stepping stone, and her legacy will be as the person who reinvigorated a conversation that needed to be had and needs to keep being had. Raising her voice, raising her hand, in a moment when I and the generations behind me needed to see it most. — Gabe Stone Shayer, principal dancer, American Ballet Theater
“Everyone can look at her career and story, and find some part of themselves in it.”
When I think of Misty, I think of strength, of perseverance, and of joy. When I was growing up, I didn’t see a lot of representation around me in Seattle, and she is one of the dancers that helped me to believe that I could make it as well. I remember when I was nine I found an ABT book at a bookstore and a photo of her was in it. I was so overjoyed at the fact that a Black woman was in the book, I ripped the page out and never looked back!
Now, I am a dancer at Pacific Northwest Ballet and the first Black woman to join the company in over 30 years. Aside from my hard work and talent, I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am without the continuous work and dedication from Misty throughout her whole career. It is because of her and so many other dancers of color that my generation and the generations after us will be able to continuously change the ballet world and the meaning of what it is to be a ballerina.