Even Michaela DePrince Gets Asked If She Has a "Real Job"
You know Michaela DePrince's story by now. The Dutch National Ballet soloist was orphaned in war-torn Sierra Leone, adopted by an American family and subsequently became a near-household name in the ballet world, eventually joining Dance Theatre of Harlem and then DNB. Since then, she's written a memoir, acted as an ambassador for War Child Holland, appeared in a Beyoncé music video, become the face of a Jockey campaign and will be the subject of a upcoming biopic directed by none other than Madonna. But all her high-profile achievements haven't changed her exacting work ethic or unwavering commitment to her craft.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?
Some people believe that dancers don't eat or that we don't have a life outside of the ballet. They don't believe being a dancer is a real job. They say, "Do you actually get paid for that?" or "But what is your real job?"
What other career would you like to try?
When I retire I'm hoping that I can become a human rights lawyer. For now, the only way I can really help people is by being an ambassador for War Child Holland.
What was the last dance performance you saw?
Nederlands Dans Theater. The way the dancers become these incredible creatures is just so inspiring to me.
What's the most played song on your phone?
"I Was Here" by Beyoncé. It's the last song I listen to before I go onstage.
What is your favorite book?
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. This book has helped me with so many things, like who I want to be as an artist.
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
I always kiss the floor and then I pray and dedicate my show to someone in my family because most of the time they don't have the opportunity to watch me perform.
Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?
Usually I'll be home so that I can recover. If I don't have anything to do I'll be hanging out with my friends either at a pub or at my house, or sometimes we will go out and dance some more.
Where did you last vacation?
Ibiza, and I had such a wonderful trip. I didn't plan anything. I just relaxed (which is hard for me to do) on the beach, had good food and great sightseeing. I felt really recovered and ready to get back into the studio.
Who is the person you most want to dance with, living or dead?
Carlos Acosta. I think he's such an incredible artist. He's done so many incredible things for his country and has inspired me since the first time I saw him perform.
What app do you spend the most time on?
Instagram and WhatsApp.
What's the first item on your bucket list?
I don't really have a bucket list. I've had so many incredible things happen to me and I've had the opportunity to travel to some great places and meet some wonderful people. I'm grateful that I've had the chance to experience this in my short lifetime.
What is your go-to cross-training routine?
We have an incredible trainer here at DNB and she specifically made a program for my body, especially since I'm still coming back from having a tendon rupture and surgery a year ago. If anyone wants to see all my training routines I have them on Instagram.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?
I've received so much bad advice that I just tune it out. As a child so many people told me that I should be a modern dancer because I have the body for it. I just didn't listen to them.
If you could relive one performance, what would it be?
One of my all-time favorite performances was dancing Kitri in Don Quixote with South African Mzansi Ballet. I had such a blast onstage because I feel like our personalities are quite similar.
When a musical prepares to make the transfer from a smaller, lesser-known venue to Broadway (where theaters hold 500-plus seats), often there's a collective intake of breath from all involved. After all, a bigger house means more tickets to sell in order to stay in the black, and sometimes shows with even the most tenacious fan bases can't quite navigate such a jump. But what about the transfer from stage…to screen? Is Broadway ready to be consumed from the comfort of your couch?
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
Daphne Lee was dancing with Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, Tennessee, when she received two difficult pieces of news: Her mother had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, and her father had Parkinson's disease, affecting his mobility and mental faculties.
The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."
Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.
Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
Get Dance Magazine in your inbox
It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).
But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.
I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!
—Andrea, New York, NY
When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.
The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.
Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.
The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.
As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:
When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.
The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."
Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.
What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.
So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.