Part of my job as a ballet teacher is to write lesson plans for our classes. Hours and hours each week I spend on the hunt for material that I hope not only inspires my students, but awakens their curiosity and passion for ballet.
Recently I ran across this amazing article from Teen Vogue that left me stunned and inspired. It is the story of African war orphan turned professional ballerina, Michaela DePrince. This remarkable young woman overcame unthinkable personal tragedies such as the brutal death of her parents at age three and the label “devil child” in a foster home, as a result of having a rare skin condition called vitiligo.
Look at her now.
At age four, Michaela and her best friend in the orphanage were adopted by a loving couple from Philadelphia. Michaela revealed her love of ballet to her parents and from that moment forward, they faithfully provided the best training they could afford. Michaela blossomed as a dancer, continued to overcome and shall we say, overachieve. An understatement.
Her big break came when she was 14 after a grand success competing in Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition that awards scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide. The competition is held annually around the world and in New York City, and is open to dance students of all nationalities 9-19 years old.
Michaela was one of six dancers featured in the award-winning documentary, First Position, which chronicles a dancer’s life while training for this intensely fierce competition.
I bought it immediately and watched with my ballet-loving daughter. Not even sure if we blinked the whole time. It was amazing! Can’t wait to share it with my students.
The journey of becoming a professional dancer is one of great sacrifice and pain. There are no free handouts; skill can only be acquired through blood, sweat and tears. In the best of circumstances, the success rate for going pro is less than 3%. This talented young lady never allowed loss, rejection, obstacles or stereotypes stop her. She never stopped to feel sorry for herself. Not even for a second. I admire her so much for that.
She soars. Always with a smile.
Michaela’s story is a must read. And a great reminder of the power of love, hope and determination. On a note related to today’s holiday, I think it’s cool that MLK’s birthday is January 15th and Michaela’s is January 6th. Both remarkable African-American individuals who inspire us all.