Book Review – Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
By Misty Copeland, With Charisse Jones
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Autobiography, Memoir
ISBN: 978-1476737980
Source: Library
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Determination meets dance in this memoir by the history-making ballerina.

In this instant New York Times bestseller, Misty Copeland makes history, telling the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged, and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America’s most groundbreaking dancers. A true prodigy, she was attempting in months roles that take most dancers years to master. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life, she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

With an insider’s passion, Misty opens a window into the life of an artist who lives life center stage, from behind the scenes at her first classes to her triumphant roles in some of the world’s most iconic ballets. A sensational memoir as “sensitive” and “clear-eyed” (The Washington Post) as her dancing, Life in Motion is a story of passion, identity and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.


If there’s one memoir you read this year, please let it be this. It’s one thing to hear the name, “Misty Copeland” and know that it’s an accomplishment in itself to be able to know this name in the world of dance, in the world of ballet, in the mainstream, but to learn her story…wow. I was truly blown away by this memoir.

Before reading her memoir, I honestly had no idea where Misty came from and how she started dancing. After reading, I can now say that I do in fact know about her upbringing and the absolutely fascinating angels that God laid on her path to get to where she was always meant to be, despite all of the challenges that came her way.

It’s not easy being a parent and dropping your pride to let someone else provide what you can’t to your child… it’s not a fun reality accepting that you may be what is in the way of your child’s success. And that’s what Misty’s mother had to come to terms with when emancipation came into the mix as a possibility when the big time decisions needed to be made. When faith needed action and not enough was being taken.

Sometimes it’s much easier to accept being taken advantage of as the problem so you don’t have to step through the threshold and see the life changing opportunities before you as the advantage. Fear keeps so many people where they are but as we see here in this book, passion, love, humility, determination, and support kept Misty going.

Support is so incredibly undervalued. It can change a person’s entire life. I love that this book is such a highlight of that because support is so, so, so important yet it seems nobody ever actually wants to be selflessness. But so many more Misty Copelands can be a part of how future, if only there were more generous people like the ones holding her up when she was young and finding her way.

I also love that Misty mentions how being naive and starting later in life worked to her benefit. But she smart enough to know how to handle public school which is why I was appalled to discover one moment she recalls during the emancipation time in her life when her school teacher turned on the talk show that Misty and her mother were on the day after they shot the show, so the entire class could watch. That is mortifying (not to mention, traumatizing) for any child and so unprofessional, invasive, and out of order for any teacher! What in the world. With the highs come the doozies.

Most of all, I love that Misty talked about being shielded from racism as a child but seeing and experiencing it for herself as she grew older and what she’s doing to combat it. For an art form that is so cultured, there really is no culture in it and that’s part of what makes Misty Copeland and all of her achievements in her field as the first African American ballerina to XYZ so special. Talking about race and dance is a subject within itself so I won’t get into this but I do love how honest she is and how gracefully she handles the topic in her book.

If you’re wondering about her collaborations with Prince, that’s in here too. So much is in here and it’s written so well and really was a true page turner. I learned so much and love Misty’s work even more and highly recommend this to anyone looking to learn more about Misty Copeland and her life leading up to becoming a ballerina.

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland is available today.