From Corps de Ballet to Fashion Campaigns, New York City Ballet’s India Bradley Forges Her Own Path

September 13, 2022

India Bradley started dancing as a young girl, tagging along whenever her mother, a former dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, taught classes. But the Michigan native has always followed her own path, and Bradley ultimately decided to focus on ballet instead of modern. By 13 she was training at Dance Theatre of Harlem, where one of her teachers was former New York City Ballet corps member Andrea Long-Naidu. “She was the first person to open my eyes to the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet,” Bradley recalls of setting her sights on the company. “I started YouTubing everything I could, and l loved the thought of going to SAB.” After SAB came an apprenticeship, then a corps contract in 2018. The pandemic put everything on pause, but it also taught Bradley a vital lesson: “Going through that at the age that I am, and at this young part of my career, I was like, ‘I can’t just rely on NYCB to give me all of the happiness in my life,’ ” Bradley, now 23, says of taking on modeling work with brands like Victoria’s Secret and the luxury fashion house Gabriela Hearst. “Modeling was really a blessing because it was a great way to sustain myself, and I met so many photographers, models and stylists that I loved working with.”

dancer mid-step wearing striped pants, white top, and holding small bag
India Bradley. Photo by Quinn Wharton.

Dancing in Diapers:

“When I was about 2 years old, my mom was teaching at a university, and she found me dancing in the garden behind the studio in my diaper. I don’t think she planned on having a kid who was going to be a dancer, but after that she was like, ‘Okay, this kid clearly needs to let some energy out.’ ”

Her Postshow Routine:

“We’re all such good friends, so we kind of debrief after the show—usually while all of our feet are in an ice bucket and we’re taking off our makeup.”

From YouTube to IRL:

“This past year, doing Justin Peck’s Partita was really special to me. When I first learned about SAB and City Ballet, I was like, ‘This guy Justin Peck seems really cool; I can’t imagine ever working with him, but hopefully someday.’ It was just an amazing process, and I never thought he would make a ballet on me.”

Her Dream Roles:

“I have a notebook with a list that goes to maybe 20, but to name a few roles, I would say Symphony in Three Movements pas de deux, Agon pas de deux, Agon pas de trois—any role in Agon—I think almost any role in Four Temperaments, one of the principal couples in Episodes, and Dewdrop in The Nutcracker.”