Dance Theatre of Harlem (2014-2015)
Dutch National Ballet: Élève (2014-15), Coryphée (2015-16), Grand Sujet (2016), Soloist (2016-present)
Michaela DePrince was born in war-torn Sierra Leone during the country’s decade-long civil war. Rebels killed her father, and shortly after, her mother died of fever and starvation. DePrince had vitiligo, a disease that causes patches of skin to lose their color. In DePrince’s native land, vitiligo was considered a curse of the devil. This caused her uncle to abandon her at an orphanage. There she was taunted and abused by the women who cared for the children. They called her the devil’s child. One day DePrince found a magazine blowing in the wind. On its cover was a photograph of a beautiful ballerina en pointe. Once DePrince saw this she found hope and determination to one day become just like that ballerina. Soon after the discovery of the magazine, an American family adopted DePrince, and she became the eighth of their eleven children, nine of whom were adopted. DePrince’s new parents recognized her talent for ballet. They enrolled her in ballet classes and supported her passion for the art. While attending the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, her participation in the Youth American Grand Prix gained her a grant to study at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York. DePrince worked hard to develop her skills so that she could overcome stereotypes of conventional beauty and racial barriers in the world of ballet. After DePrince was featured in the ballet documentary First Position, DePrince debuted professionally as a guest principal at the Joburg Ballet in South Africa and appeared on Dancing with the Stars. She graduated in 2012 and at the age of 17, joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem. At 18, DePrince started her career in the Netherlands as a member of the newly formed Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company. In August 2014, she transferred to Dutch National Ballet in the rank of élève. One year later, she was promoted to coryphée, in 2016 to grand sujet, and then to soloist at the end of the same year.
Besides dancing, DePrince loves reaching out to disadvantaged young people, with whom she shares her message of hard work, perseverance, and hope in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands.
In 2013 DePrince collaborated with her mother to write her memoir. This was published as the young adult book, Taking Flight by Knopf Books in 2014. Since then DePrince’s memoir has been published under different titles in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and Poland. DePrince also worked with her mother on Ballerina Dreams, a Random House Children’s Step-into-Reading book for young readers between the ages of six and eight years old.
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