Perspective: Interview with Dance Theatre of Harlem's, Derek Brockington

 dance theatre of harlem


Name: Derek Brockington

Age: 21

Where you’re from: Michigan

Where you trained: Grand Rapids Ballet School, Interlochen Arts Academy

Where you currently live/dance: I live In New York. This is my first year with Dance Theatre of Harlem

Favorite roles you’ve performed (and/or want to): The favorite role I’ve danced was the Prince in Sleeping Beauty.  A ballet I’d love to be in is Akram Khan’s Giselle.

How did you get your start in dance?

My cousins actually owned a small studio in Saugatuck, Michigan, and my mother thought I was clumsy and overly energetic, so it seemed like a good fit to start dance classes. I started tap dancing when I was five, and I started ballet when I was eleven. When I was fourteen, I realized that I could do ballet for a living, if you want to call it that, and took it more seriously from then on.

What’s a normal workday like for you?

On a normal day, I wake up and eat breakfast.  Then since my roommate, who also dances at Dance Theatre of Harlem, and I live walking distance from work, we walk the seven blocks it takes to get to work, and we have ballet class for an hour and a half.

Then we have rehearsals for three hours, lunch, and then another three hours of rehearsal. During those rehearsals we work on everything that we will be taking on tour (between 10-15 different ballets that we alternate between in each city).

Then I walk home, relax, make dinner, take a really hot shower to relax my muscles, watch TV, and go to bed.

Biggest obstacles you have faced in the dance world?

For me, as with a lot of people, money was a defining factor in my inability to attend some auditions, college, and summer intensives to which I had been accepted and wanted to attend, but couldn’t due to lack of funds.  My parents were willing but often times unable to help out with a lot of expenses.

Another personal obstacle was my own body image. Growing up, I was very often the only person in the room who looked like me because of my skin color and body type, and that made me think that my body wasn’t right for ballet.  I thought that no matter what I did, I wasn’t going to look like everybody else. Of course, later on I realized that wasn’t true… but when I was young it was harder for me.

In addition to that, growing up in Michigan, I didn’t have a whole lot of people who I could see myself in as a dancer, and it is really important for young student dancers to have role models.

Dance Theatre of Harlem Ballet Pointe Paint

How have you overcome these obstacles?

In terms of finances, I worked as hard as I could to find scholarships and spent hours online researching grants and programs that gave money to young artists. I got odds job when I was away at school [Interlochen]. As hard as I had to work in dance, I also had to work to find money for it.

My body image changed a lot when I realized that it was taking so much energy and time to hate myself when there wasn’t anything I could change.  I started telling myself, “life is too short to not love the body you were given.” It also really helped when I was around more dancers of color and seeing people in whom I felt I could see myself.  It gave me the opportunity to embrace myself in a more positive light.

I know you’ve recently been on tour with Dance Theatre of Harlem. Do you have any tips for how to stay healthy while touring?

Touring has been amazing, but it is a constant go, go, go.  

My best advice is to listen to your body, rest and take a breather. If you need to take a nap during your break, take it. I also suggest exploring. Being in a new city every few days can be exhausting, but if you have time and aren’t too tired, use it to get to know the city you’re in.  It becomes really fun.

Also, if the hotel has a hot tub... Use it. Every. Chance. You. Can!

What do you do in your free time or your favorite things to do in NYC?

In my free time, I like to find bookstores or cafes around the city that I haven’t been to before and go sit and read or get coffee.  

New York also has some great parks. I like to go with friends during the summer and just bring food and people watch. The city is amazing for people watching.


new york city ballet

Something a lot of people might not know about you?

Something people might not know about me is that I’m adopted, and so are all 3 of my siblings. My mother adopted all four of us as a single parent, which is pretty cool.


Headshot Photo Credit: Rachel Neville Photography

Older Post
Newer Post

Related Posts

Perspective: Interview with Master Ballet Academy Student, Elizabeth Bortz
Perspective: Interview with Master Ballet Academy Student, Elizabeth Bortz
Cover Photo: Elizabeth Bortz by Rhi Lee Photography  Where are you from? I was born in Vail, CO but raised on the isl...
Read More
Perspective: Interview with Sophie DeGraff
Perspective: Interview with Sophie DeGraff
Cover photo: Sophie DeGraff by Ashley Lorraine Baker  Age: 14Where are you from? Maple Grove, MinnesotaWhere do you c...
Read More
Perspective: Interview with Chicago Native, Seven Allen
Perspective: Interview with Chicago Native, Seven Allen
Seven Allen by Zavesco Photography Name: Seven AllenAge: 18Where are you from? Chicago, IllinoisWhere do you currentl...
Read More

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Close (esc)


Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Main menu

Shopping Cart

Your cart is currently empty.
Shop now