Michaela DePrince, Dutch National Ballet
Michaela DePrince’s journey from war-torn Sierre Leone to center stage is nothing short of miraculous. Rebels killed her father when she was three years old. Days later, her mother died of starvation. As a toddler, she discovered a photograph of a smiling ballerina blown up against the gate of her orphanage. Captivated by the woman’s tutu and pointe shoes, Michaela held on to the photo, and began to dream of a better life. Destiny intervened when an American couple adopted her. After relocating to States, Michaela began training with The Rock School in Pennsylvania. Some ballet instructors deterred her, citing her muscular frame and speckled brown skin as anathema to the ballet world. Michaela pressed on. She rose to fame in 2011 when a film crew chronicled her entry in the prestigious Prix de Lausanne ballet competition for the award-winning documentary First Position. After graduating from American Ballet Theater’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, she performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem for a year before joining the Dutch National Ballet.
Precious Adams, English National Ballet
Precious Adams made headlines in 2011 when she moved to Moscow to study with the Bolshoi Ballet, one of the oldest and foremost ballet institutions in the world. As the sole brown face in the academy, Precious encountered fierce discrimination. Regularly passed over for performances, one teacher even encouraged her to “try to rub the Black off.” Precious persevered, becoming one of the first African-American ballerinas to graduate from the school. Armed with superior technique and classic lines, she has since taken the ballet world by storm. She accepted an invitation to dance with the English National Ballet in London and received two top prizes at the 2014 Prix De Lausanne. The Michigan native has studied ballet in renown institutions throughout the world, including the National Ballet School in Toronto and The Princess Grace Academy in Monte Carlo. So not only does she do a mean pirouette, but she can speak French and Russian too.