For Michaela DePrince, 2017 is off to a happy start: Last week, the Dutch National Ballet dancer was promoted to soloist. The announcement came during the company’s run of Coppélia, in which she made her debut as Swanhilda. Dancers Qian Liu and Sasha Mukhamedov were both promoted to principal as well.
DePrince’s journey from an orphanage in Sierra Leone to a career as a professional ballet dancer is already legendary in the ballet world, and her role in the documentary First Position made her a household name. Since then, she’s frequently been in the spotlight, and kept busy with a host of projects: There’s her memoir, Taking Flight (soon to be adapted into a feature-length film), her role as a featured dancer in Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, and her work as an ambassador for War Child Holland, which helps children living in war zones. She’s also become an international guest artist, and will be making her UK debut this month, dancing Myrtha in English National Ballet’s Giselle.
But for much of the time, the 21-year-old has been quietly growing and maturing as a dancer at Dutch National. After briefly dancing with Dance Theatre of Harlem, she joined Dutch National’s junior company in 2013, and entered the main company the following year. She was promoted to coryphée in 2015, and to grand sujet at the beginning of 2016. In a Dance Spirit cover profile last year, she talked about her goal of becoming a principal dancer, and her desire to focus on her dancing and artistry, despite all the attention given to her backstory. “I’m here not because of my story,” she said, “but because of who I am as an artist.”
From the looks of it, her hard work and passion are paying off. Congratulations, Michaela!