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Ayisha McMillan Cravotta

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Information about Ayisha McMillan Cravotta

Profile image of Ayisha McMillan Cravotta

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chocolate Brownies
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Chicago, Illinois
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
2/21/1978
Birth Location:
Golden Valley, Minnesota

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chocolate Brownies
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Chicago, Illinois
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
2/21/1978
Birth Location:
Golden Valley
See how Ayisha McMillan Cravotta is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Ballerina Ayisha Nell McMillan Cravotta was born on February 21, 1978 in Golden Valley, Minnesota. In 1981, McMillan moved with her family to Oak Park, Illinois. McMillan began dance at the age of two at the Academy of Movement and Music and soon dreamed of becoming a ballerina. At the age of eleven, McMillan joined MOMENTA, the resident dance company of the Academy of Movement and Music. From 1989 to 1993, she danced with the Bryant Ballet, based in Chicago, where Homer Hans Bryant, former principal dancer with the Dance Theater of Harlem, became her mentor. With the Bryant Ballet, McMillan flourished in the multicultural environment where classical ballet and African dance forms were explored side by side.

At a young age, McMillan made extraordinary sacrifices for her craft. During the summer months, beginning in 1989, she attended the Boston Ballet School in Massachusetts where she was mentored by ballet great, Elaine Bauer. In addition, McMillan was selected for private instruction by Asaf and Mikhail Messerer of the Bolshoi Ballet. Later, Asaf Messerer lived in McMillan’s Oak Park home while he taught McMillan. She also received pre-professional intensive training in classical ballet and early American modern dance. She traveled between Oak Park, Boston and Houston, Texas and trained with the Houston Ballet during summer break.

In 1990, at age twelve, McMillan danced in the Soviet-American ballet production of Coppelia. She also attended the Soviet-American Ballet School. At thirteen, she attended the Von Heideke Ballet School. In 1992, when McMillan was fourteen years old, she won a full scholarship to the Houston Ballet Academy. After high school, McMillan attended Rice University, where she graduated as an anthropology and art history major while dancing professionally with the Houston Ballet.

In 2002, McMillan left Texas and joined the North Carolina Dance Theater where she danced in A Midsummer Night’s Dream among other productions. In 2004, she became the first African American dancer to play the role of Clara in The Nutcracker. McMillan retired from the stage in 2007 at the age of 29.
McMillan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 19, 2007.

See how Ayisha McMillan Cravotta is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ayisha McMillan Cravotta's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her maternal family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her mother's godmother, blues singer Edith Wilson
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her paternal family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta continues to describe her family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls how her parents met and their education
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her parents move from Chicago, Illinois to Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her early childhood years in Golden Valley, Minnesota
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her family's history in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and The Links
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers her family's move from Minnesota to Oak Park, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her elementary school years at Grace Lutheran School in River Forest, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her tantrums before ballet classes as a girl
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her experience in MOMENTA
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers Tanya Wideman and Sarita Smith Childs, black role models in her ballet classes
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her ballet training and private lessons with Homer Hans Bryant
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta chronicles her ballet training as a youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls one of her favorite performances as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her training in various dance forms
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her experience at the Boston Ballet School where she studied under Elaine Bauer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her experiences with international ballet students
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes receiving ballet instruction from Asaf Messerer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her training from Mikhail Messerer and dancing in the Soviet American Ballet School's production of "Coppelia"
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers balancing her school work with ballet training
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about why she wanted to become an architect
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her parents' divorce
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her first date while a student at the Houston Ballet Academy
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about issues of body image
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about pre-professional ballet training with Homer Hans Bryant in the Bryant Ballet
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about racial dynamics in the ballet world and ballerinas she admired
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her interactions with idols, Nina Ananiashvili and Virginia Johnson
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her college application strategy and her decision to attend Rice University in Houston, Texas
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her first professional ballet performance, body image issues, and mentor Lauren Anderson
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes an experience of racial discrimination, and the microaggressions faced by black ballet dancers
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about meeting Debbie Allen
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about the North Carolina Dance Theatre
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her historical debut as Clara in "The Nutcracker" at North Carolina Dance Theatre
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her experience at Rice University in Houston, Texas
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her historic role as Clara in "The Nutcracker"
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about dancing Tinker Bell, one of her favorite roles
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes dancing the role of Clara as a woman of color and racist aesthetics in the ballet world
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about why she did not join a black ballet company
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her relationship with HistoryMaker Earl Calloway who appointed her as Grand Marshal of the 2005 Bud Billiken Parade
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her hip injury and why she decided to retire from professional dancing
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her last performance
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes the minimal changes in dance during her decade-long career
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes inspirational ballerinas and why she pursued a career in ballet
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes the impact of her training by Asaf Messerer of the Bolshoi Ballet
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her first mentor, Dorothy Samachson, and her mother's second marriage
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her transition into marketing for the North Carolina Dance Theatre
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta expresses her desire to see more black women welcomed into the ballet world
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta narrates her photographs