DePrince in David Dawson's A Million Kisses to my Skin. Photo by Angela Sterling via dnb.org

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.

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When Yvonne Montoya climbs all over the piano while her 12-year-old son Buddy tries to practice on it, we might guess that she is either having a parental meltdown or making a dance. Turns out, it's both. "It's been wild, and completely overwhelming," says Montoya from her Tucson, Arizona home, where she lives with Buddy and her husband.

Montoya, a 23rd-generation Nuevomexicana and founding director of Safos Dance Theatre, is one of many dance artists navigating motherhood during COVID-19. Choreographers, educators, artistic directors and dancers are not only trying to keep their careers afloat by creating digital work, but some have also been dealing with their now homebound children in the wobbly world of the Zoom school room, which is about to crank up again in most of the U.S. Doing that while managing a company, a studio or a freelance career can sometimes generate a type of artful chaos.

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