If the average teenager proposed writing an autobiography I would laugh. Michaela DePrince, however, is no ordinary teenager. Her book, Hope in a Ballet Shoe, is no ordinary story.
I first heard about Michaela DePrince when Dirk Badenhorst, CEO of what is now Joburg Ballet, brought the young ballerina to South Africa where he hosted the African premiere of First Position, the ballet documentary which featured Micaela DePrince, as well as allowing her to dance with the company, more importantly in the lead role of Le Corsaire. I was present when the lovely young dancer made her debut in this role. There were many balletomanes who were quite taken with her story and I was certainly amongst their number. I was again present when she made her debut as Kitri in Don Quixote. Dirk Badenhorst has an excellent eye for fine young dancers, and more particularly, he has an empathy for and with these young people.
Micaela DePrince has an amazing story to tell. As a small child she became orphaned in war-torn Sierra Leone, went through some hair-raising experiences, was fortunately adopted by the most amazing American couple, the DePrinces, and she has gone on to achieve a great deal in the world of ballet in her own right.
Raising a ballerina is never easy. It is time consuming, expensive and it requires nerves of steel and the wisdom of Solomon. Michaela’s story is a testament to the love and generosity of the DePrinces in their sacrifices so that she could achieve her dream. What a couple! What a woman Elaine DePrince is as she co-writes Michaela’s story. The young heroine of the autobiography does not forget to thank her mother, and she acknowledges the tremendous love gift. I suspect that only time will teach her, however, how much love and how precious and costly this love really is. In the interim I salute her parents who have done a fine job.
I don’t dwell on the story in this review because I don’t wish to steal any of the joy of your own discoveries. I merely make a recommendation: Do not move far from a box of tissues while reading this story. It had me in tears in several places.
I thoroughly enjoyed the read and only most reluctantly put it down once, reading it in two sessions. This is a book which is suitable for older teens (probably about 14 upwards) and adults because of the difficult nature of Michaela’s early years in Sierra Leone. It is completely relevant whether one is a ballet lover or not, and will be of particular interest to people who have undertaken cross-cultural adoptions.
I recommend this book highly and it will make an excellent gift for under the tree on Christmas morning – just don’t expect the recipient to be around for the rest of the day! It is a quick read so they should be finished in time for Christmas dinner.
Hope in a Ballet Shoe written by Michaela and Elaine DePrince is published by Farber & Farber (2014) and distributed by Jonathan Ball Publishers in South Africa. ISBN number 978 0 571 31446 1. Recommended price R210 from all good book shops.