Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Ballerina Michaela Deprince To Chair Discussion On Inclusivity & Breaking Barriers In Ballet


There is no cost to view and access will be through the SAIBC's Facebook and Youtube channels.

Ballerina Michaela Deprince To Chair Discussion On Inclusivity & Breaking Barriers In Ballet

With less than one month to go before the 8th South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC) kicks off at Artscape, Founder and CEO Dirk Badenhorst has announced that Netherlands-based ballerina Michaela DePrince will chair a live-streamed panel discussion on inclusivity and the breaking of barriers in the ballet world, on July 22 at 16h00. The event will be one of two expert-led conversations happening during the week-long competition, the other taking place on July 20 that will revolve around dancer health and wellbeing that will be facilitated by The Healthy Young Dancer Project (THYDP).

Michaela DePrince, 26, whose personal story has been told throughout the world, is a Forbes Class of 2020 Honouree and Ambassador for War Child Holland. Born in Sierra Leone, she lost both her parents during that country's civil war. Having a skin condition called vitiligo that causes patches of skin to lose colour, she was rejected by her family who saw it as a curse, and was placed in an orphanage where she endured taunting and suffering as a little girl. It was there though that she came across a magazine with a picture of a ballerina on the cover, a life-changing moment that gave her hope and fuelled her determination to one day become the same.

Michaela moved to the USA after being adopted by an American family who recognised her talent and sent her for ballet lessons. Going from strength to strength, she entered the Youth America Grand Prix and won a scholarship to American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Ballet in New York.

Around that time, Dirk Badenhorst invited her to South Africa to guest with SA Mzansi Ballet where she made her professional debut, returning a second time to star with Joburg Ballet. Back in the States she performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and a year later joined the Dutch National Ballet's junior company, moving through the ranks to her current position as a Soloist in the main company in Amsterdam. With her adoptive mother she co-authored her memoir Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina, a book that has been published under different titles in eleven countries and to which MGM has acquired the film rights. Beyoncé also handpicked her to perform in her video album "Lemonade".

Michaela has worked hard to overcome stereotypes of conventional beauty as well as racial barriers in the ballet world and she is an inspiring example of perseverance, courage and determination. Joining her in this important dialogue next month will be several jury members - South African Andile Ndlovu, a dancer at Washington Ballet; Charmaine Hunter (USA), the Principal of the Orlando Ballet School in Florida; South African Tanya Howard, a soloist with The National Ballet of Canada; South African Allison Hendricks, the Executive Artistic Director at Dance for All in Athlone; Cooper Rust (USA), the Executive and Artistic Director at the Dance Centre in Kenya; South African Xola Willie, a dancer at Mzansi Ballet in Johannesburg; Wei Wu (China), Ballet Master at Liaoning Ballet in Shenyang, and the only non-Jury member Ted Brandsen, Artistic Director of Dutch National Ballet, the company of which Michaela is a member.

The illustrious group will share personal experiences and challenges they have faced and overcome on their respective journeys in the industry. Michaela is also a judge at this year's competition, joining seventeen other judges - South African and International - on the largest SAIBC jury contingent to date.

Hosting important conversations surrounding the art of classical ballet has long been a passion of SAIBC CEO and Founder Dirk Badenhorst who facilitated twenty discussions last year during the virtual SAIBC and into October 2020, covering a number of topics such as transgenderism, wellness, and ballet as a healing tool for PTSD sufferers. Badenhorst has built a global network over more than two decades of ballet diplomacy and the SAIBC is the perfect conduit for these talks.

"While we are seeing more dancers of colour in companies today than ever before, very few hold Principal positions. Traditionally the ballet profession has not been an easy road for people of colour nor for those from China and Korea, and these exceptional panelists are well equipped to speak into the issue and impart invaluable advice to dancers facing similar difficulties," he said.

There is no cost to view and access will be through the SAIBC's Facebook and Youtube channels (links will be made available online on the day), while a small audience will watch the proceedings on a big screen onstage at Artscape, the world class venue that has hosted the SAIBC since inception in 2008 and is celebrating its milestone 50th anniversary this year. The competition week at Artscape is from 19 to 24 July with tickets from R100 to R250 through Computicket and the ArtOfLife app.

For more info visit and download the ArtOfLife app via the iStore or the Google Play Store .

Related Articles View More South Africa Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You