Jacob’s Pillow today announced Misty Copeland as the recipient of the 2023 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. Copeland will accept this award at Jacob’s Pillow’s Season Opening Gala in the Berkshires on Saturday, June 24.
The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award is presented each year to an artist of exceptional vision and achievement and carries a cash prize that the artist can use in any way they wish. Copeland has made history as a changemaker and phenomenon in the art of ballet; in 2015, she was the first African American woman promoted to the level of principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.
Copeland has also performed on Broadway and was appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition in 2014 by former President Barack Obama. She has been recognized for her philanthropic efforts and dedication of her time to mentoring children and is a New York Times bestselling author, having published several books for adults and children. The New York Times has called Copeland “one of the most famous ballerinas in the United States” and Times reviews have noted her “courage and grandeur” when performing starring roles, describing her dancing as “scrupulous… all of her shapes were beautifully lucid, with a softness borne of strength.” “We are honoring Misty for her immense artistry and achievement as one of this country’s premier ballerinas,” said Pamela Tatge, Executive and Artistic Director. “We are also recognizing her work as an activist and change-maker. As the Pillow and our field as a whole seeks to address systemic racism and the need for greater equity, inclusion and access in all aspects of our work, we are excited to honor one of this country’s greatest champions of expanding the ranks of who belongs in ballet on both sides of the footlights. Misty persevered when many would have given up. She has been such an astonishing role model for young dancers around the world, and it is truly thrilling to announce her as the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award recipient this year.”
“I’m honored to be recognized by Jacob’s Pillow,” Copeland said. “This treasured team’s longstanding commitment to the arts and dance are perfectly aligned with my desire to bring this art form to as many people as possible. I look forward to celebrating with everyone at the Gala.”
In addition to the presentation of the Award, performances at the Jacob’s Pillow Season Opening Gala will include The School at Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary Ballet Performance Ensemble in a world premiere by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, and other performers to be announced. In addition to in-person event tickets for the one-night-only performance, dinner and dancing, the Gala performance will be live-streamed and accessible through a “choose what you pay” model.
To learn more about the Gala, visit www.jacobspillow.org/events/gala. Copeland joins a list of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award honorees that include Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Dormeshia, Ronald K. Brown, Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, Bill T. Jones, Merce Cunningham, Kyle Abraham, Michelle Dorrance, Camille A. Brown, Liz Lerman, and Faye Driscoll, among others. The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award was established in 2007 and is philanthropically supported by an anonymous donor. Born in Kansas City and raised in San Pedro, Calif., Copeland began her ballet studies at the late age of 13 when she enrolled in a free ballet class at her local Boys & Girls Club. At 15, she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000.
You can read the release from Jacob’s Pillow here.