When Edgar Degas painted and sculpted and ballerinas in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the artist was inspired by two things: ‘rendering movement and painting pretty clothes’.
Those pretty clothes got a designer upgrade in the new issue of Harper’s Bazaar — and the ballerinas were upgraded, too, to dance superstar Misty Copeland.
The 33-year-old recreated several of the artist’s works, copying the original ballerinas’ poses in Alexander McQueen, Roberto Cavalli, and Valentino.
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Art en pointe: Misty Copeland recreated several paintings by Edgar Degas in the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar
Inspiration: The ballerina stepped into the shoes of several of the artist’s most recognizable subjects
Surprisingly, the ballet pro admitted that creating the shots wasn’t too easy.
‘Trying to re-create what Degas did was really difficult,’ she said. ‘It was amazing just to notice all of the small details but also how he still allows you to feel like there’s movement.
My first ballet class, I was wearing my gym clothes and socks — pretty far from a Degas painting
‘That’s what I think is so beautiful and difficult about dance too. You’re trying to strive for this perfection, but you still want people to get that illusion that your line never ends and that you never stop moving.’
She likely had to stop moving for more than a few moments in the perfect pose, copying the artist’s works to a T. In one photo, she holds her leg up and balanced behind her, her arms spread, as she wears a $5,490 Oscar de la Renta dress not dissimilar to the one on the girl in the painting.
In another photo, she models herself off the sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, which sees a girl standing straight and looking up in a fluffy dress and ballet shoes. Misty’s isn’t faded and pink, but blue — and a $4,655 Alexander McQueen creation.
‘I definitely feel like I can see myself in that sculpture — she just seems content but also reserved,’ she said. ‘I was really shy and introverted at that age. I don’t even have an image in my head of what I remember a ballerina being or existing before I took a ballet class. Ballet was just the one thing that brought me to life.’
Total elegance: The 33-year-old ballerina said it was a difficult project, but she enjoyed noticing all the details in his work
Pliés get posh: In the photos, Misty copies each pose and wears designer dresses, like this one by Valentino
In fact, Misty didn’t take that first ballet class until she was a teenager. The then-13-year-old had tried out for drill squad at her school, when her coach encouraged her to take ballet at the Boys & Girls Club.
‘Before dance came into my life, I don’t really remember having any major goals or dreams of wanting to be anything,’ she said. ‘I went to school, and I was really just trying to fit in and not be seen. But ballet was this thing that just felt so innate in me, like I was meant to be doing this.
‘The [first ballet] class was given on a basketball court, and I was wearing my gym clothes and socks — pretty far from a Degas painting,’ she added.
She clearly picked it up quickly, and the rest, of course is history. Misty went on to be the first African-American woman to be principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, earn celebrity endorsement deals with Dr. Pepper and Under Armor, and even publish her own books.
Boundary-breaking: Misty was the first African American woman to be named principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre
Used to walking on her toes: She also revealed that designer Christian Louboutin will make her shoes for her upcoming wedding to lawyer Olu Evans
Becoming a major celebrity, though, has been an adjustment, since Misty said that’s never what she set out to do.
‘When all of the media and the attention that came along with me entering the ballet world arrived, that was not what I wanted. I take it all very lightly, in terms of people calling me a “celebrity” and things like that,’ she said.
‘I think what I’m doing is showing people how incredible the arts can be for a child and how it’s changed my life. I try not to get caught up in the other stuff, but I understand the importance of me doing it.’
The connections that come with fame do have some perks, though. Misty is now planning her wedding to lawyer Olu Evans, and shoe designer Christian Louboutin has promised to design her shoes.