DePrince in David Dawson's A Million Kisses to my Skin. Photo by Angela Sterling via dnb.org
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.
"Michaela's journey resonated with me deeply as both an artist and an activist who understands adversity," Madonna said in a statement. "We have a unique opportunity to shed light on Sierra Leone and let Michaela be the voice for all the orphaned children she grew up beside."
We know Michaela DePrince's inspiring story of going from war-torn Sierra Leone to international ballet star. But now she's giving us even more insight into her life as a dancer with Dutch National Ballet with a new vlog series that covers everything from her recent injury to her globetrotting lifestyle. Here's why we're loving it:
1. She's #goals for any dancer dealing with an injury.
This summer, DePrince ruptured her achilles tendon. But instead of letting the injury get her down, DePrince has used the opportunity to take on new projects (like starting this vlog!) and has devoted herself to her rehab.
Throughout the summer, we've been noticing beachside views and scenic waterfalls sprinkled in with all of the usual rehearsal and performance posts we see from ballet's biggest stars. But even while enjoying some sun and relaxation, dancers like Sara Mearns and Michaela DePrince prove that they never really take a break from ballet. Ahead, check out some of the cutest vacay pictures and videos our favorite dancers have been sharing this summer. Not only will they give you some future vacation inspo, they'll also have you itching to get back in the studio.
Michaela DePrince is having one spectacular year. On New Year's Day, the Dutch National Ballet dancer was promoted to soloist. And yesterday, she scored a major endorsement as a face of Jockey's "Show 'Em What's Underneath" campaign. We've said it before: There's a right way and a wrong way to feature dancers in mainstream media. This campaign hits the mark by celebrating DePrince's grace, athleticism and story of hope.
If you need a refresher on her remarkable journey—from war orphan in Sierra Leone to being adopted and launching her ballet career—check out Jockey's video below.
The premiere of Dutch National Ballet's Night Fall. Photo by Michel Schnater, Courtesy DNB
Fog envelops you as swans and sylphs flash right past your shoulder. This is Peter Leung's Night Fall, a new virtual reality 360 dance film featuring Dutch National Ballet. It puts you inside the "white acts" the film portrays as though you were a member of the corps.
Over the past year, ballet companies and premier artists have been creating new work and adapting existing ballets for the virtual reality world via 360-degree video technology. From English National Ballet's Giselle VR, a two-minute adaptation of Akram Khan's new production, to The Royal Ballet's snow scene from The Nutcracker, classical ballet is forging new partnerships with technology and entertainment companies to cross over into this new platform.
360-degree video technology offers unprecedented access and astounding visuals. Using an omnidirectional camera or several cameras, every angle is captured and the resulting footage stitched together. During playback online, the viewer has the option of exploring the entire panorama.
Michaela DePrince has defied the odds again and again. She overcame incredible circumstances, rising from an orphanage in war-torn Sierra Leone to join Dutch National Ballet, where she was recently promoted to grand sujet (demi-soloist). With principal roles and book deals under her belt, DePrince is still doing the impossible—managing her schedule as a college student, an international guest artist, an ambassador for War Child Holland (an organization for children living in war zones) and, most recently, a featured dancer in Beyoncé's Lemonade.
You're in Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade. How did that happen?
Her publicist emailed my mom. At first, I was like, “It's totally fake, it's totally fake." I sent it to my agent and she contacted Beyoncé's publicist. They emailed us on a Monday, and I was in New Orleans filming on Friday. I was there for four days. And I got to meet her! One of my best friends absolutely adores her, so I was trying to see if she could sign something for him. I didn't have anything for her to sign, so she said, “Oh, I'll just call him."
You were just promoted. Where do you see your new position taking you?
Every little girl dreams of being a principal one day. But for me, the older I get, the more I just want to grow as an artist. So if I don't get to become a principal, it's okay. I really want to move people when I dance.
You've been at Dutch National Ballet for a while now. Does it feel like home?
It's my third season. I should know Dutch by now, but I still don't speak any! But even when I was 15 and had the opportunity to perform in The Hague, I felt at home right away—that's the reason why I wanted to go there. It's a very international company, so it's nice that we're all from different places and have a little family there. Because we all miss our families.
What roles are you looking forward to performing?
I'm hoping I'll do something really nice in La Bayadère, but I'm not quite sure. I don't want to put pressure on my director just because I got promoted.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
This month I'm going to Guadalajara to perform in Isaac Hernández's gala to raise money for his school in Mexico. I've known him since I was 8 years old. This is an amazing project for me because I've wanted to open up a school in Sierra Leone so kids can dance there for free. But right now I'm focusing on Dutch National. We have an amazing program coming up, and we're working with Justin Peck on Year of the Rabbit. I'm also studying for college right now. I'm going to be studying human rights, but right now I'm just working on English courses.
Do you ever picture yourself dancing for an American company?
I would love to dance for San Francisco Ballet. But right now I really love Dutch National. If it works out that I'm invited to a different company, then great. But I'll probably stay here for quite a while.