Michaela DePrince, 21, who spent most of her childhood in Cherry Hill, was promoted last Thursday to soloist at the Dutch National Ballet during a recent run as Swanhilda in Coppelia.
Yet, she shares a lot with Sara Michelle Murawski, 25, who was fired on Friday from Pennsylvania Ballet. Both trained at Philadelphia's Rock School for Dance Education. Neither fit the mold of a traditional ballet dancer.
While Murawski, 25, is 5-feet, 11 inches - tall for a female ballet dancer - DePrince, 25, has very dark skin. She was born in Sierra Leone and adopted into a family in Cherry Hill. She was one of the children featured in a popular ballet movie called First Position, and she wrote a book about her unusual route to ballet with her mother, Elaine.
DePrince's talent led her to finish her dance education at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Then she danced for a year with Dance Theatre of Harlem. But she found success with a major company when she moved to Europe, which tends to be kinder dancers with a variety of looks. The Dutch National Ballet tweeted a beautiful photo of her this morning.
Murawski also found success in Europe, dancing first at Germany's Semperoper Ballet and then at the Slovak National Ballet as a soloist. But she longed to move back home and returned to the United States in September to become a principal dancer at Pennsylvania Ballet.
DePrince will be returning this summer to Philadelphia to teach at the Rock School.