Energetiks talks with Michaela DePrince

Inspirational 18 year old dancer Michaela DePrince (seen in the 2011 documentary First Position) took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with us, and pose for these gorgeous shots with photographer Ebbe Sweet at our Energetiks photo shoot in New York.

Energetiks: Hi Michaela, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. First of all, congratulations on the success of First Position; your journey, talent, and determination in the film is so inspiring!

Even though First Position has only recently been released here in Australia, it must feel like quite a while ago for you since filming! After the 2011 Youth America Grand Prix you moved to New York to dance with the Dance Theatre of Harlem which must have been an amazing experience, and you’ve just recently moved to the Netherlands (wow!) to dance with The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company. How are you finding it so far? Has it been challenging adjusting to a new country and dance company at the same time?

Michaela:I am really loving my experience with the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company.  They are all such wonderful dancers.  It's a pleasure to work with them.  The artists and staff are all very nice, from dance masters to wardrobe staff.  Fortunately I have danced in the Netherlands before and spent several weeks here during the past two winters, so I'm not having much of a problem adjusting, though I do miss my family.  I rather enjoy bicycling everywhere.  Also, I love to cook and there is a market close to our apartment where I can buy fresh fruits and vegetables.  

Q: In First Position you told the story of how a photograph of a Ballerina that you found when you were at the orphanage had a big impact on you, what was it like when you finally got to take your first ballet class?

Actually, my first ballet class was very disappointing.  I thought that at the age of four I'd learn the entire choreography of the Nutcracker in the first class.  I write about that first class in my upcoming memoirs which will be out in the fall of 2014, and I tell how my mom enrolled me at the Rock School for Dance Education soon afterwards.  I loved the Rock School from the day I entered my first class fourteen years ago.

A young Michaela (right) and sister Mia all dressed for ballet!
A young Michaela (right) and sister Mia all dressed for ballet!


Michaela's story in the documentary First Position:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2TqoHqKy4I

Q: What, so far, are you most proud of achieving with your dancing?

I am most proud of finally achieving some modicum of artistry.  I've always been an athlete - a champion swimmer when I was younger.  For a long time I danced like I swam: strong, fast and energetically.

I developed technique, strength and extension early on, but it took me forever to develop the artistry in dance.  And I'm still working on it.  I think that I'm proudest of the artistry because it came so hard to me.


Michaela wears Energetiks Cross Wrap Back Camisole (Sun).


Q: We hear that you are releasing a memoir which you have co-written with your Mother, Elaine, how exciting! Can you tell us a little bit about the book, and what it was like to write it?

I have a good memory, and I am Mende by tribe, so I come from a culture with a strong tradition of oral storytelling.  If I lived among my tribe three hundred years ago, I probably would have been the record keeper of the tribe's history, so it was easy for me to tell the story.  It was a lot harder to get it down in writing.  I'm lucky in that my mom is a beautiful writer.  She took my bare bones story and turned it into a piece of literature.  If it wins any awards it will be because of Mom, not me.  I'd love to tell your readers what's in the book, but then they wouldn't look forward to reading it next year.  However, I will tell you that there are a lot of things in the book that nobody knew about me.

 Q: What hobbies/activities do you like, other than dancing?

I still love to swim.  I feel like a dolphin in the water.  I've always enjoyed bicycling with my sisters, so it isn't a hardship for me to bicycle around Amsterdam.  I have a domestic streak.  I enjoy cooking, especially experimenting with recipes.  And I enjoy knitting.  When I was a young child I taught my sisters and all of my friends how to knit.  I also enjoy reading.  I suppose my weirdest hobby is doing math.  I love math workbooks.  


Michaela wears Energetiks Bootie Leg Unitard (Red).


Q: The other dancers featured in First Position (Aran, Miko, Jules, Joan, Rebecca and Gaya) are all from quite different locations. Did you get to spend much (if any) time with them, and have you kept in touch with anyone?

I didn't really know Miko, Rebecca and Gaya, but Aran and Joan are friends of mine.  I met Aran through YAGP, but Joan and I were both students at the Rock School and long-time friends.

Q: Which artists have the biggest influence on you as a dancer?

My favorites have changed over the years as I have had the experience of seeing more and more artists performing.  However, the artists that have had the biggest influence on me as a dancer are those who had the generosity of spirit to become teachers and share their knowledge, talent and passion for ballet with me.  


Michaela wears Energetiks Energetiks Cross Neck Camisole (White), Tie Dye Chiffon Wrap Skirt (Red).


Q: You have achieved so much at such a young age (Winning the Junior Grand Prix, Starring in First Position, and on Dancing with the Stars, dancing the role of Gulnare from Le Corsaire with the South African Manszi Ballet Company, joining the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and now the Dutch National Junior Ballet Company, to name but a few). What are your aspirations for the future?

Would it be dreaming of too much to aspire to one day becoming a prima ballerina assoluta?  My father always said, "Reach for the stars and at least you'll make it to the moon," so I suppose that's what I'm doing, reaching for the stars.

Michaela as the Black Swan for During her time with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Photo courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Michaela as the Black Swan for During her time with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Photo courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem.


Q: Do you have any pre-performance rituals Michaela?

Yes, I like to pop all of my joints.  That makes them feel looser and more lubricated.  Then I go deep within myself and meditate.  SABC Digital News got the best shot of me in that trance-like state before performing Gulnare.  It's in their video on You Tube.  It's certainly not the prettiest picture of me, but it captured the moment. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAeYBRMg8g4

 Q: What's something you can't live without?

My lip gloss, my lotion, orange juice and my iPhone.


~ Michaela wears Energetiks Flow Dance Singlet (Vibrant Green), T Back Crop Top (Punk Pink) and Straight Band Short (Party Purple).


Q: Do you enjoy dancing the classics, or more contemporary ballet pieces the most?

Though I love dancing both, I love the classics for their delicacy, pomp and costumes.

Q: What makes you laugh?

Funny people, little children, puppies and comedy films make me laugh.  

Q: Which ballet (and role) is your personal favourite?

My favorite ballet is Sleeping Beauty.  If I could dance two roles in my career they would be the Princess Aurora and the White Swan.


Michaela wears Energetiks Cross Neck Camisole (White), Printed Wrap Skirt (Black), and Convertible Compression Tights (Black).


Finish these sentences:

My dancing is:my greatest love.

Friends would describe me as:funny.

A bad habit of mine is:cracking and popping my joints.

My favorite food is:any spicy rice dish or interesting omelet.

And finally, do you have any words of advice for our readers who are aspiring dancers?

Yes, lots of words, but I'll try to limit them to one bit of advice…  "Keep jealousy out of your dance.  Dancing should be fun, but negative feelings will take that fun away."

It's been great talking to you Michaela, and we look forward to watching you continue to achieve great things with your dancing!  :) X Energetiks

Michaela's website: www.michaeladeprince.com

Follow Michaela on Twitter

If you'd like to see more of the talented photographer, Ebbe Sweet, who shot Michaela for us in New York, check out her blog: Champagne For Ducklings!

See the complete gallery from our gorgeous New York photo shoot with Michaela here!