African-American ballet star Misty Copeland blasts Russian dancers for blacking up in rehearsal

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African-American ballerina Misty Copeland has blasted her Russian counterparts at the famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy for blacking up during a rehearsal.

The 37-year-old, who became the first black principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, shared the image to her 1.8million Instagram followers, saying: ‘This is the reality of the ballet world.’

Her Russian counterparts at Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy were rehearsing La Bayadère, a swooning tragedy set in India, first performed in 1877.

Bolshoi Theatre director Vladimir Urin told the RIA Novosti news agency: ‘The ballet La Bayadère has been performed thousands of times in this production in Russia and abroad, and the Bolshoi Theatre will not get involved in such a discussion.’

Misty Copeland, 37, shared the image to her 1.8million Instagram followers, saying: 'This is the reality of the ballet world'

Misty Copeland, 37, shared the image to her 1.8million Instagram followers, saying: ‘This is the reality of the ballet world’

Copeland’s post provoked strong reactions from around the dance world and she later tweeted: ‘I get that this is a VERY sensitive subject in the ballet world. But until we can call people out and make people uncomfortable, change can’t happen.’

She appears to have re-posted the image after it was uploaded by the Russian dancer who has since deleted her Instagram page.

But while thousands were outraged by the blackface worn by the Russians, others attempted to explain that this was the norm in performances of La Bayadère (The Temple Dancer).

Bolshoi director Urin said: ‘Finding some sort of deep insults in this is simply ridiculous … No-one has ever complained to us or saw… an act of disrespect.’

Meanwhile Russian prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova told Moscow 24: ‘There is nothing strange here, it’s absolutely normal for us… this is art.’

Despite a degree of backlash, Copeland said: ‘I get that this is a VERY sensitive subject in the ballet world. But until we can call people out and make people uncomfortable, change can’t happen.

La Bayadère tells the story of the temple dancer Nikiya and her warrior lover Solor.

The temple maiden is also desired by the High Brahmin who plots to take revenge on Solor and so follows a tragic tale, wherein the lovers will only be reunited in the afterlife.