Erica Lall Is Ready to Take Center Stage-Erica All ABT Dancer Profile

Two years ago, a video of ABT dancer Erica Lall went crazy viral. Rushed to put together a Halloween costume, she grabbed a pink leotard, recreated an iconic dance, and voila, transformed into Aunt Viv (the first one) from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It’s that charisma, plus sheer skill, that took Lall from her first summer intensive with American Ballet Theatre to her entrance into the corps de ballet in just four years. At 20, Lall has many pirouettes ahead of her, but for now she tells about her career thus far and what it’s like to be black in the ballet world.

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“I am from Cypress, Texas, which is the suburbs of Houston. My mom is from Jamaica, my dad is from Trinidad. I started as a competition dancer, so I did tap, jazz, hip-hop, and contemporary until I was nine and then I joined the Houston Ballet Academy and I did strictly ballet for a little while. When I was 13 or 14 I attended the ABT Summer Intensive in California and was asked to be a National Training Scholar. After that, I was asked to join the school in New York, so I moved here by myself when I was 15. No mom and dad. I moved here and I roomed with another girl in my class, and we just kind of lived on our own. I was in the school for a year and then during the summer intensive, I found that I’d be joining the studio company in the fall. So, I did a year and a half of studio company, joined as an apprentice in January which I did until May, and now I’ve been in the corps ever since. When I moved here at 15 I really had to learn how to take care of myself and learn how to be an adult. I wasn’t scared. I should have been scared, but there’s something about New York I love. I love it so much and just became a New Yorker.

My sister is eight and a half years older than me, so I grew up imitating everything she did. She was a competition dancer, so I would sit in the back of her rehearsals when I was one and a half or two, and I would mimic everything. She would choreograph little solos for me that I would do at my school talent show. When I was a competition dancer, I hated it. I never wanted to do the cheesy faces, and big expressions, so she always coached me on how to be an extrovert when I dance. She pulled that out of me.

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Growing up, there were few dancers of colors in the school and in the companies around me. Sometimes I thought, “Should I be doing ballet? Because no one looks like me. I don’t see as many, is it even possible for me to do?” But I didn’t let it get to me. I would think about it occasionally if someone brought it up. If someone was like, “Oh, she’s only getting this part because she’s a dancer of color, because she’s black.” I would get comments like that, which I still get.

It’s kind of hard, because you never feel like you’re doing enough. You work so hard, but the work will always going to be judged in relation to your color, I feel. When I came to New York and I did the summer intensive at ABT, I signed up for a second summer intensive at Dance Theatre of Harlem because my mom and I wanted me to feel comfortable in my skin. I’ve always felt equally as accepted here at ABT. I never really thought about my color. I never thought about my color until someone brought it up. And if they brought it up I would just be like, “I’m gonna prove them wrong,” you know? They don’t need to see me as a dancer of color, they just need to see me as a dancer.

erica lall elle movement

Oscar de la Renta Boutique black tulle dress with ruby and spinel bonded laser-cut nappa leather; Signature collage print lace-up swimsuit. See for more details.

Kat Wirsing

It’s an honor to even be in the same category as Misty Copeland. Coming to ABT, I looked up to her. I actually met her in California for that summer intensive. But you know, I feel like I’m the next Erica Lall. I’m okay with being compared to her, that’s a compliment to even be in the same category as her, but I am the next Erica Lall. We’re all the next ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself. And we’re different dancers. We dance differently, and that’s not a problem.

I’ve guested with Harlem School of the Arts, and I’ve seen a lot of the students come through the Bridge Class and Project Plié. I feel like they’re always looking up to me, and I want to be a good example for them. So that’s the kind of pressure I feel. And I always feel pressure to be ten times better than I am, because I want to be ten times better than I am, because you can never stop working when your career is ballet. I eventually want to be a soloist and then a principal. But as long as I’m out there dancing I’m really happy.

erica lall elle movement

Photographer: Kathryn Wirsing | Lead Producer: Angel Lenise | Stylist: Shiona Turini | Stylist Assistant: Melanie Wainwright | Hair: Nichole Olan | Makeup: Niasia Boyd

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