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Prince Had an Affinity for Ballet, Introduced the World to Misty Copeland

By Philip Trapp on Apr 24, 2016 10:10 AM EDT

The death of legendary pop artist Prince shocked the music world this week. With numerous news items highlighting the eccentric performer's various proclivities, one overlooked aspect of his vast artistic understsanding was a reverence for ballet.

Ballet dancer Misty Copeland, the first African American woman named principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, was handpicked by Prince to star in his 2009 video for "Crimson and Clover." The first single from his Lotusflower album, the song is an adaptation of the 1968 hit by Tommy James and the Shondells.

Though Copeland was already a rising star in the ballet realm, Prince's invitation enabled the ballerina to display her artistic ability to a wide swath of music fans. Receiving the artist's surprise solicitation in an early-morning phone call, Copeland recalled the ensuing video shoot to New York magazine:

"It was really just, 'Be you, feel the music, just move,'" she says of the shoot. "I'm not used to that type of freedom. After every take, I'd ask him what he wanted, but he said, 'Keep doing what you're doing.'"

Impressed by the dancer, Prince invited her to accompany him on a tour of Europe. In 2011, the artist featured Copeland as a stage dancer during his "Welcome 2 America: 21-Night Stands" tour. Thanks to Copeland, Prince even made a generous donation to the American Ballet Theatre.

As reported by The Wrap, Prince continued to promote the ballerina, helping Copeland land high-profile television appearances to further boost her career:

"Prince's sponsorship didn't end there. The music star encouraged PBS interviewer Tavis Smiley, with whom he had struck up a friendship, to have Copeland on as a guest. Smiley interviewed Copeland in February 2011."

Prince died suddenly on Thursday at age 57. Found unresponsive at his Paisley Park Studios in Minnesota, his cause of death is still being determined by authorities. An autopsy was reportedly completed on Friday by the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office, with results not expected to be released for several weeks.

Below, watch a feature on the artist's famous, rain-soaked 2007 performance at the Super Bowl XLI Pepsi Halftime Show.

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Tagsprince, Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre, Tavis Smiley, Super Bowl XLI