Watch This

We've been captivated by former cover star Michaela DePrince since her teenage days, when she was starring in First Position and turning heads at The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre. (She was featured in our You Should Know column way back in 2012!).

These days, she's all grown up and shining at the Dutch National Ballet.

She's also been doing super-stunning collabs with major brands, NBD. Case in point: the vid below, which features DePrince dancing in some seriously cool Air VaporMax Nikes in a commercial shot for Vogue Nederland.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

 

It's always recycle day with me, but apparently April 18–24 is World Recycle Week—and H&M wants you to get on board. To make you super excited about recycling, and the very real positive impact it has on the planet, the company teamed up with singer M.I.A. to create a dance-tastic video featuring everyone from bone breakers to ballerinas grooving for a good cause.

See if you can spot DS faves Michaela DePrince and Yanis Marshall, along with many other dancers.

You can even catch a glimpse behind the scenes in this video:

 

Join me behind the scenes when shooting the RE-Wear It video for #WorldRecycleWeek #michaeladeprince @nationaleoperaballet

A video posted by Michaela DePrince (@michaeladeprince) on

Want more Dance Spirit?

Dance News

Can't get enough of our September 2015 cover girl, Michaela DePrince? #Same. Well, luckily for everyone, DePrince recently performed at the 2015 Women in the World summit in London, and a video of the performance was made available to the public! She said to the crowd, "I dance to bring joy to the audience. I never let them see my pain, but only my excitement." File that under reason number 12,756 why we love her. Check out the full video from the event below, as well as some beautiful images. For full coverage, click here.

(Photo Katie Booth, via Women in the World)

(Photo Katie Booth, via Women in the World)

(photo by Michel Schnater)

Chances are, you’re already obsessed with Michaela DePrince. The 20-year-old has been a bona fide star ever since her appearance in the 2011 documentary First Position. She’s ferociously talented, for starters, and fans can’t get enough of her knockout facility and relentless drive. But her story—as detailed in the recently released Taking Flight, which she coauthored with her mom, Elaine—is also the stuff of fairy tales: DePrince started out as an orphan in Sierra Leone and ended up a world-class ballerina. Huge talent + huge story = media catnip, and over the past few years DePrince has gotten tons and tons (and tons) of press.

(photo by Michel Schnater)

Now in her second year dancing with Dutch National Ballet, DePrince has reached an interesting and unusual point in her career. She has to balance the pressures of international stardom with the challenge of dancing in the corps of an elite ballet company. One day, she’s being featured on a TV talk show; the next, she’s standing in a long line of swans.

How is she handling it all? With grace and humility. In fact, DePrince refuses to let her now-famous history define her. Instead, she’s focusing on her goal of becoming a principal dancer and hopes that the spotlight will soon shift from her offstage persona to her onstage presence. “I’m here not because of my story,” she says, “but because of who I am as an artist.”

Settling In in Holland

DePrince, who trained at The Rock School for Dance Education and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, landed a spot in DNB’s junior company two years ago, after guesting in a production of The Nutcracker in the Netherlands. Her friends Rinus Sprong and Thom Stuart, who’d organized the Nutcracker run, suggested that she take company class at DNB and recommended her to artistic director Ted Brandsen. “It was immediately clear that she was really strong technically and had an amazing jump,” Brandsen says. “I offered her a position straightaway.”

(photo by Michel Schnater)

DePrince quickly felt at home at DNB, with its varied repertoire of classical and contemporary works and diverse roster of dancers. “I love the atmosphere here—the dancers are all so different,” she says. “I can love my body the way it is, instead of eating salads every day and constantly worrying about my shape, like I did in the U.S.”

Now comfortable in her own skin, DePrince has the freedom and confidence to focus on developing her artistry. She’s taken full advantage of some surprise opportunities that have come her way—like performing David Dawson’s high-octane A Million Kisses to My Skin on opening night after another dancer got injured. “It was crazy! I had only two days to rehearse it before the premiere,” she says. “It ended up going well, and I’m happy the company knows it can rely on me.”

Finding Her Voice

While technique comes easily to DePrince, she says it’s harder for her to open up artistically. Ballet master Charlotte Chapellier has been helping her figure out how to identify with each role, and how to use her feet, hands and head with greater detail. “She digests all the information very fast, and she’s not afraid of working,” Chapellier says. “She’s eager to learn.” These days, there’s a newfound depth to DePrince’s dancing, and she’s blossomed in nuanced, lyrical roles, including as one of the pas de trois soloists in Swan Lake.

While she’s still working out the kinks in her port de bras—“I used to be a competitive swimmer, and my shoulders are hyperextended, so it’s easy for them to sneak up”—DePrince is trying not to get bogged down in self-criticism. “I’ve had to learn to let go and be less of a perfectionist,” she says. “In the end, it’s not about having a perfect fifth position, but about enjoying the ballets and sharing the emotion I’m feeling with the audience.”

(photo by Michel Schnater)

Handling the Pressure

DePrince is humbled and a bit overwhelmed by all the media attention she’s received. She admits she’s tired of telling her tale over and over again, but acknowledges that speaking about her experiences has also been therapeutic. “Yes, I wrote the book because I didn’t want to tell the story every single day,” she says, laughing. “At the same time, I wanted to show how you can use the things you go through to make yourself stronger.” DePrince plans to use some of the proceeds from the book—and from the movie version of the story, which is in the works—to open a ballet school in Sierra Leone. “But right now, I want to focus on my dancing,” she says.

Brandsen wants her to focus on dancing, too. He put a hold on media requests for a few months this year to give DePrince a break from the frenzy. “As her artistic director, I feel responsible for her artistic and personal well being,” he says. “It’s not good for a person so young to be under such stress.” Still, he’s impressed with how DePrince is handling it all. “She’s very curious, very open, and is soaking up all the information she can get,” he says. “She just keeps growing.”

Becoming a Grown-Up

DePrince says she’s changed a lot in the years since First Position. “I don’t take life so seriously anymore!” she says. “And I’ve learned that if you’re injured, you have to take the time to rest. You might want to push through pain, but you have to think about your career in the long term.” As a young teen, Michaela also ate “horrible foods” and didn’t realize the value of a healthy diet. Now, she cooks constantly. (“I love making lentil soup!”)

But the biggest change is that DePrince has simply grown up. She lives in her own apartment in Amsterdam and bikes to work every day. “I loved living in NYC and having my friends and family around,” she says. “But here, it’s more about the work. Now my goal is to become the artist I’ve always dreamed of being.”

 

(photo by Michel Schnater)

Fast Facts

Favorite food: “Omelettes. I can eat them anytime.”

Weirdest thing in her dance bag: “A back brace to help keep my stomach pulled in.”

Latest obsession: “Onesies! I have a purple one, a red one, a zebra-print one and even a pig-print one.”

Preshow ritual: “I have to tie my ribbons twice. I had a dream that I missed a performance because I couldn’t get my ribbons to stay in.”

Dream role: “Aurora has been my dream since I was little.”

Secret wish: “I’d love to have a leotard line—but the only things I can sew are my pointe shoes!”

Nickname: “Arthur Mitchell, the founder of Dance Theatre of Harlem, used to call me Mickey.”

Most-played music: “I’m really into Taylor Swift and John Legend right now.”

Advice for Dance Spirit readers: “Don’t give up on yourself. It’s OK to be different! Never try to be like anyone else.”

Dance News

Many of us first fell in love with Michaela DePrince after seeing her onscreen. The 2011 Youth America Grand Prix documentary First Position captured DePrince as a teenage ballet hopeful with an incredible story—and seriously incredible talent. It was enough to hook anybody with feelings and/or eyes.

DePrince in a First Position publicity shot (via First Position's website)

Fast-forward four years: DePrince has developed into a gorgeous artist; is gracing the cover of the current issue Dance Spirit; has a contract with Dutch National Ballet, where she's already dancing soloist roles; and is the author of a beautiful memoir, Taking Flight. Now, in a full-circle moment, that memoir—which traces her journey from a Sierra Leone orphanage to the international ballet stage—is getting a film of its own. Which means it's time for a whole new group of dance lovers to discover Michaela's story onscreen.

Breathtaking. (from DePrince's DS shoot; photo by Michel Schnater)

You might have noticed a sentence about the film tucked into DePrince's cover story. As of this morning, we have a little more information about the MGM project: Respected director Sanaa Hamri—best known for her Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Prince music videos, the film Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and the (fantastic) Fox drama "Empire"—has been tapped to direct. Which makes us all the more excited to see the finished product.

No word yet on expected release date, but you'd better believe we'll be following this one closely. Stay tuned!

You know the sculpture: A young girl in a tutu stands in an open fourth position, gazing up in awe as if she’s watching a prima ballerina leap before her. But you probably don’t know the story behind the sculpture—the story of ballet student Marie von Goethem, who, at age 14, became the muse of renowned artist Edgar Degas. This month, Marie’s tale will come to life onstage at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, in Little Dancer, a brand-new musical directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. None other than New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck will star as Marie. Peck is no stranger to the world of musical theater: She first played Gracie Shinn in Stroman’s revival of The Music Man on Broadway at just 11 years old. Dance Spirit caught up with Peck to find out more about Little Dancer.

 

(Photo by Matthew Karas, Courtesy The Kennedy Center)

Dance Spirit: How does working on this show compare to your experience when you were younger?

Tiler Peck: The Music Man was such a surprise for me. I don’t think I really grasped what Broadway meant. Now, being in Little Dancer means so much more. Not only am I working with Susan Stroman again, but Rebecca Luker, who was also in Music Man, is playing Marie’s older self. It’s like I’ve come full circle.

DS: What’s challenging about playing a young girl?

TP: Well, it’s just like doing Romeo and Juliet. No one who plays Juliet is actually her age. The key is your mannerisms and the way you hold yourself. I’ve also been looking at tons of Degas’ works, and I’ve been reading as many books as possible to find out about Marie’s life. She was very witty!

DS: Why should people see the show?

TP: For dancers, the show is easy to relate to because you see Marie face so many of the challenges that both young dancers and professionals go through today. And Broadway people will love the music. It’s so beautiful; you just have to dance to it.

DS: What’s the best part about being in Little Dancer?

TP: Marie is a starring role, and the whole show revolves around her. Getting to create the part—being the first person ever to play it—has been so special.

Taking Flight

A crumpled, torn magazine photo of a ballerina sparked a 4-year-old orphan’s dream of becoming a professional dancer. That orphan was Michaela DePrince, now a rising talent at Dutch National Ballet. (You may know her from the 2011 documentary First Position.) DePrince’s new memoir, Taking Flight, recounts her incredible journey from war-torn Sierra Leone to the ballet world. There are moments that will leave you in tears—yet her inspiring story (co-written with her adoptive mother, Elaine DePrince) is one you’ll never forget. —Sophie Moyer

Dance Spirit spoke with DePrince about her writing process.

 

(Courtesy Random House Children's Books)

The events you describe early in the book are unfathomable. What was writing about them like for you?

I wrote everything in small snippets—thoughts, memories, feelings.

They were like bits of clay that I handed to my mother, who organized them and turned them into a beautiful piece of art. In a way, it was therapeutic—I was able to get all of the happenings out of my head and onto paper. But even more therapeutic was reading the final product. Although it all came from my memory, it still moved me to tears.

Why did you write Taking Flight?

I’m especially interested in reaching kids who are feeling hopeless because their life circumstances aren’t ideal. I want to inspire them to grab onto a dream and find ways to make it come true.

Have you met the woman who inspired your own dream—Magali Messac, the former Pennsylvania Ballet dancer on the Dance Magazine cover you found in Sierra Leone?

I’ve communicated with her online, but I haven’t actually met her in person. We live so far away from each other—she’s in Washington State and I’m in the Netherlands! Oddly, though, without having met her, I still feel like she’s not real—just the ballerina in the picture.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Right now, I’m with the Dutch National Ballet, and love everything about it. I’d like to stay here as long as possible, and I hope I’ll rise through the ranks. I’d also like to start a free school for the arts in Sierra Leone. I feel deeply about the children there who lack opportunities—I want to share my good fortune with them.

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored