Daphne Lee began her dance training at the Rahway Dance Theatre under the direction of her mother, Mrs. Jay Skeete-Lee. She graduated with honors from the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A program in dance and is a recipient of the Denise Jefferson Scholarship award. She is currently receiving her MFA in Dance at Hollins University. Ms. Lee received scholarships to Jacob’s Pillow, Boston Ballet, and Dance Theatre of Harlem and is a regional gold medal recipient in dance for the NAACP ACT-SO competition and served as a judge.
She was also featured in the opening video for the Mrs. Carter World Tour for Beyoncé and was featured in a short film, “Life of An Actress” directed by Paul Chau.
Here’s what happened when we spoke to the rising star about the realities of the dance world
With rising stars like Misty Copeland, Micheala De prince and of course yourself what does the future of ballet look like for women of colour?
For me the future of ballet is pressing forward to more inclusion and variety among all dancers. I think the more we make this the “Norm” then the future of ballet can now be focused on the direction of choreography, politics of ballet, the accessibility of the art form and other issues that continue to shape ballet.
Having a big social media presence has become a thing for dancers and choreographers. How do you navigate that?
For me, social media has gotten me many opportunities for side gigs, teaching and to inspire others. I don’t make social media my life as I know to keep certain matters private. It’s also essential to make sure I’m consistent with my work ethic inside the studio and on stage.
How do you deal with the constant scrutiny on your look?
Constant scrutiny? It’s part of my job and part of the art form to live my best self by eating well, mediatating, and challenging myself daily.
Which choreographers inspire you?
I love any choreographer that’s open to getting to know the dancers they are working with as well as bringing out the best in their dancers like Darrell Grand Moultrie.
Describe what it felt like the first time you went on pointe?
I don’t remember honestly, it was so far away. I never was interested in dance professionally so i guess it wasn’t a thing.
What’s been your favourite dance solo to date and why?
Robert Battle’s “Takedeme” because of its percussive movement and the comedy/personality aspect to add to the piece.
What is a typical week in the life of a ballerina like?
We have a morning 90 minute ballet class every day followed by 3 hours of rehearsal other ballets. We then take a lunch break and then another 3 hours of rehearsal. When on tour, we have travel days, or days off and sometimes outreach events like lecture demonstrations, master classes and mini performances.
Why the Dance Theatre of Harlem?
It’s proven over the last 50 years to stand the test of time to the legacy of our late founder Arthur Mitchell. I’m interested in doing a pleathora of works, and being apart of a company that’s connected to ballet and it’s roots with being a multi-ethnic company.
how much does acting play a role in dancing?
The acting is an extension of the artist performing the role by using their real life stories and situations to translate onstage. For me as an artist, it’s essential to each of the works.
What are your three top tips for the aspiring ballerinas out there?
- Make connections
- Train in ALL dance styles
- Never quit
Tchaikovsky, Aaron Copeland or Khachaturian?
I prefer Ari Lennox, Drake, and Jordan Ward.
How do you prepare for an audition?
I prepare mentally by knowing that all the good dancers are already hired.
How do you handle hearing the word “no”?
For me “No” means “next opportunity”
What are you most looking forward to in 2019?
I am looking forward to celebrating each month and being happy enjoying my time in nyc and traveling. I hope to go on a few adventures.
More About Daphne Lee:
Daphne has performed works by Robert Battle, Benoit Swan- Pouffer and Amy Seiwart among others and was an assistant choreographer to the Milwaukee production of the musical The Color Purple.
She was a former member of Alvin Ailey II, Zest Collective, the Oakland Ballet Company, and a back-up dancer for UK artist Sydney Jo Jackson. Daphne serves as a member of Brown Girls Do Ballet Inc. and is endorsed by companies like Gaynor Minden (pointe shoes) and Nudebarre.