Originally Published October 28, 2014
Photo Above and Feature Photo Taken by Nisian Hughes
Our latest conversation is with another amazing dancer, Michaela DePrince. At the age of 19, she’s been interviewed by Teen Vogue, written a book with her mother and hopes to change the world of ballet forever. And in spite of everything she’s done, she never forgets to thank those that helped her dreams come true. Check out more from Michaela below!
Daily Ellement: Tell us a little bit about yourself and when you started dancing.
Michaela DePrince: I was born in Eastern Sierra Leone and orphaned as a result of the civil war there. When I was 4 ½ years old, I was adopted and came to the U.S. with my mother. When my mother saw my love of ballet, she signed me up for lessons. I began dancing at the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia shortly before my fifth birthday.
DE: How did you get involved with the documentary, First Position?
MDP: I was 13 and in the Rock School high school program (RAPA), when I was approached by Bess Kargman about being a part of the documentary. I was very shy at the time and didn’t tell my parents, so Bess called them and asked. At first I didn’t want to do it, but then my mom reminded me how much I wanted to open doors for black girls in ballet, and encourage other kids to follow me through that door. So I said, “Yes.” Then eventually First Position took on a life of its own.
DE: You and your mother recently released a book, Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. What advice do you have for someone who wants to do something people don’t think they can?
MDP: I would say, “Do not let the opinions of others stop you.” If you have a dream, then work your hardest to make it come true. Only you know what’s in your heart. [Taking Flight] is a book for young readers; I think it’s important to give encouragement to the dreams of very young children, too.
DE: You began your career dancing with the junior company of the Dutch National Ballet. How has your experience been so far dancing with the main company?
MDP: The junior company was lots of fun and the camaraderie was great. We all got along well, and there wasn’t a lot of competition between us. Now, dancing with the Dutch National Ballet’s main company is even more exciting, but it’s harder. We have a vast repertoire and we’re always in rehearsal for a ballet, sometimes more than one ballet at a time! However, it is dazzling and extremely exciting. However, because there are so many dancers and so few solo roles, it is more competitive. But the dancers are courteous and respectful of each other despite the competitiveness.
DE: What do you want your legacy as a dancer to be?
MDP: Like every beginning ballet dancer, I dream of one day becoming a prima ballerina assoluta; however, that is a rare honor, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to keep dreaming. Also I would love to be considered the Ruby Bridges of ballet.
DE: What’s next for Michaela DePrince?
MDP: I’m already where I want to be at this point in my life. What’s next is to move up into the ranks, encourage other black ballet dancers, and eventually open a school of art in my native country.