Trailblazing ballerina Misty Copeland, who has inspired dancers across the U.S. and fueled ambition across the cultural landscape, spoke about her career and the challenges she’s overcome during a reception for corporate leaders and Loyola Marymount University administrators and students.
“Misty talked about how ballet has been one of our most strident cultural institutions operating on racist and classist ideologies,” said Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, LMU dance professor and department chair. “But ballet is now changing! And it has so much to do with Misty’s work both on the ballet stage and off. She doesn’t sit back in her celebrity status, rather she uses it to affect cultural change.”
The private reception, “Igniting DEI: An Evening with Misty Copeland,” was held Oct. 20, 2022, at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in advance of Copeland’s appearance at the Distinguished Speakers Series. The evening was hosted by MarComm’s External Relations and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and brought more than 50 people together to further DEI initiatives and goals. Representatives of Disney/ABC, Episource, Equinix, Starz, Lionsgate, Google, Boeing, The BeachBody Co., and World Surf League mingled with LMU dance students and leadership after the Q&A session between Copeland and Loo.
“Misty has not only persevered but has excelled in an art form rife with racist and sexist microaggressions,” said Loo. “And she did so for ‘all the little brown girls,’ as she says in her book. Let her dedication to being a truthteller and changemaker be an inspiration to us all.”
Copeland, a native of nearby San Pedro, California, shared the challenges of being the first African American ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre, and how she often was faced with institutional racism. Copeland encouraged the corporate DEI leaders attending to invest in resources that strengthen communication and build community. One guest said, “It was a perfect evening that energized my intentionality and commitment to transforming others to have a wider view of humanity.”
Jody Skenderian, executive director for strategic partnerships and initiatives, said, “These are the kind of engagements we want LMU to convene, engagements that connect LMU with organizations and people who share our values and that lead to meaningful and lasting partnerships.”
The evening included two LMU announcements: Emelyn dela Peña, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, announced the creation of the LMU DEI Consortium, an alliance for round table discussions, think tanks, best practice sharing and thought partnering with companies. Also, the dance program introduced a new workshop for corporate partners in Silicon Beach, “Transforming Community through Communication,” that will leverage movement into the curriculum for all levels of staff to illustrate the power of words and gestures.
“This event demonstrates what is possible with our Playa Vista initiative,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas Poon, Ph.D. “LMU as an integral education partner in Silicon Beach and other business communities, and our connections opening doors for LMU faculty and students to collaborate with business leaders across industries.”