Don't let the fluid movements and pretty smile fool you: Ballet dancer Misty Copeland is one hardcore athlete. As a world-class ballerina, her entire life is basically one continuous workout. Perhaps that's why she's transitioned so seamlessly into her latest role as an athlete for Under Armour.
While this might seem like a departure from the brand's usual M.O. (Under Armour works with alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, football player Cam Newton, and UFC fighter Georges St-Pierre, among others), it's part of the company's campaign to change the view of modern sports. "Misty Copeland is a game changer," Leanne Fremar, Under Armour SVP and executive creative director, Under Armour Women's, said in a press release. "Just as Under Armour is changing our consumer's expectations around performance gear by infusing it with style and design, Misty is changing the world's view of what it means to be a world-class ballerina. She brings a modern athleticism to a very traditional art form and pushes the boundaries of the status quo definition of the word 'athlete.'"
We sat down with Copeland at the launch of UA's newest product, the SpeedForm Apollo running shoe, to talk about fitness, ballet, and pushing the limits of being an athlete.
SHAPE: What's a typical workout look like for you?
Misty Copeland (MC): My career is a workout, so ballet class is an hour and a half long, every day. Then I'm in rehearsals for seven hours. The way ballet is structured, it really targets every muscle in your body. It's the combination of stretching and strengthening along with the artistry of it that makes it a full-body mind-soul workout.
SHAPE: Do you have a favorite total-body exercise?
MC: Planks! If I haven't done a plank in a couple of weeks, and then I do one, my entire body is sore afterward.
SHAPE: How do you feel when you're on stage performing?
MC: It's a strange juxtaposition of ballet class, which I find so meditative, and going on stage, which is the exact opposite, because you give everything of yourself to the audience. You give yourself to the art form, if you're committed to being a professional. You have to give your all, and it really takes it out of you emotionally and physically, but it's like sharing your soul with the audience.
SHAPE: Tell us about your work with Under Armour. Why is it so important to you?
MC: I think so much of what I stand for as an individual—being African American, being curvy, just being different—is really supported by Under Armour. It's so incredible, because most people don't think of artists as athletes, but everything about ballet is innovative and about passion, and Under Armour really supports that. It couldn't be a better collaboration.
SHAPE: What are you hoping people will see from the partnership?
MC: People are going to see the behind-the-scenes. They're going to see the process behind the ballet. When you go to a ballet, you see the finished product; you see beauty, and it seems effortless, but something that Under Armour is going to do is put it on this massive platform and bring it to athletes and show people exactly what ballet is.
SHAPE: How has being different contributed to your success as a ballet dancer?
MC: I think having a really strong belief in myself has helped. Those days that you're feeling down on yourself and your body hurts, it's important to remember that if you don't believe in yourself, no one else will either. [Tweet this quote!]