Misty Copeland has become a household name as a standout dancer for the prestigious American Ballet Theatre company. Although she is often billed as the ABT’s first African-American soloist, Copeland acknowledges that she is actually the second and that the overlooked Nora Koito Kimball-Mentzos was the first to achieve the feat.
Ballet historians often credit Anne Benna Sims as the ABT’s first soloist, but in a 2014 interview, Copeland said that Sims was actually part of the “corps de ballet,” or a member of the larger dance troupe. In that same interview, Copeland considers herself the second African-American ABT soloist. Confusion around Copeland’s place in history is understandable, considering that she has experienced a level of media exposure her predecessor never received.
Kimball, a Brooklyn, New York native, joined American Ballet Theater in the ’80’s, having previously danced for major companies across Europe. Kimball, who is also of Asian descent, made a name for herself during this period and appeared alongside ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov in the 1987 film, Made In The U.S.A.
Kimball also starred in director Peter Sellers’ revival of The Seven Deadly Sins. Although the film was recorded in 1993, it wasn’t released publicly until 2003.
Kimball returned to Europe in the ’90’s, dancing for Dutch and German companies. In 2001, she began working as an instructor for the Zena Rommett Floor Barre Technique school, a position she currently holds to this day.