Michaela DePrince, a world renown ballerina and soloist at the Dutch National Ballet, announced on Wednesday that she’s taking a leave of absence from the company to “heal from recent losses” and “think about the artist I want to be.”
DePrince posted a letter to her fans on Instagram which explained her decision.
DePrince, 25, has been very open about her past. She was born in Sierra Leone during the country’s decade-long civil war. Her father and mother both died, and her uncle abandoned her at an orphanage because she has vitiligo, which was considered a curse of the devil. She fell in love with ballet after finding a magazine on the ground which featured a ballerina dancing en pointe, and the American family who adopted her nurtured her natural talent.
DePrince fights for dancers of color
During her career, she has focused on de-stigmatizing mental health, and she has continually made it a priority to reach out to disadvantaged children. She’s an ambassador for War Child Holland, an organization that provides education, psychosocial support, and protection for children forced to live with the effects of armed conflict.
DePrince has also fought to normalize ballet for dancers of color. She’s been open about the discouragement she received and the issues she’s encountered as a Black dancer. She had to fight for years to wear tights that matched her skin color instead of the pink tights that white dancers traditionally wear. She was repeatedly told that she wouldn’t have the right body type for dance due to her ethnicity.
She told the BBC in 2019 that one of the reasons she dances is to give young Black girls an example of a dancer who looks like them. She hopes that will inspire them to take up the art form she calls the love of her life.
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