Richmond Ballet News

MIM Insights: The Professional Dancer

April 2nd, 2020

“It’s honestly living out your dream.”

You might recognize Ira White from his various roles as part of the Richmond Ballet professional company, but did you know he started ballet through Minds In Motion?

We had a chat with Ira about his dance journey from Minds In Motion dancer (go Mary Munford!) to ballet professional.


What was your 4th grade year/MIM theme?

[It was] the Wright Brothers: ‘Taking The Wright Steps’ in 2003. My school dance was all about the printing press and I had my first solo as a piece of paper that was too afraid to be printed. Our XL dance that year was the “Ugly Bug Ball” and in that I was a worm.

Team XXL, 2005

Had you ever danced before?

I did one season of a SPARC program that came to Mary Munford and that was my introduction to choreography.


What prompted you to keep dancing after MIM was over?

Dancing was the first thing I encountered that fully captivated me mentally and physically, and it was something different from what other boys were doing at that time…I wanted to be different so I decided to keep up with it.

Ballet is hard, and very different from MIM. What about classical ballet made you want to study it?

MIM was fun and engaging but ballet was more structured and I wanted to learn more about it. Especially the way you have to advance in order to learn more. It kept me wanting to learn more and how to be the best dancer I could be.

Ira in ‘The Nutcracker’

What do you feel was your biggest challenge in turning dance into a profession?

Feeling like I was good enough to be a part of the company was my biggest challenge. That mentality that I’d never feel like a true professional was something that always crept its way in. After being a professional for 8 seasons now I feel like I’m a true and important member of this company.


What’s been the most rewarding aspect of turning dance into your profession?

When I was in middle school, it was my dream to be a professional dancer and the fact that I’ve been able to make that a reality it makes my inner child very happy and proud. Just the fact that I get to be able to create art and have art created on me as a career is the most rewarding thing. It’s honestly living out your dream.

Ira in ‘The Moor’s Pavane’
photo by Sarah Ferguson

One thing that is frequently remarked upon is how supportive and encouraging you are to younger dancers–whether it’s MIM or backstage at the Nutcracker, or even in the halls at the School of Richmond Ballet. Do you make a point of reaching out to younger dancers

Yes, reaching out to the younger generation is very important to me. I remember how comfortable it made me feel when the company members would socialize with me especially when I was making my transition from MIM XXL dancer to strictly ballet dancer. It was David Neal for me, and now I want to do the same for the kids growing up through the school; to be that positive role model for them in their lives.


Do you have any advice for this year’s group of 4th-graders?

My advice to them would be to have fun and an open understanding to the world of dance. Maybe MIM isn’t the thing that you want to do after 4th grade but try to be invested and enjoy your time because there are important life lessons that can taken away from your time being involved.


Between 4th grade, XXL (now Ambassadors), alumni dances AND dancing in the MIM show as part of the company, approximately how many MIM shows have you been in?

Well I’ve seen every single show since I’ve started and have had some sort of involvement in each show so I would say 17 years. I’ve even helped push wheelchair bound students around in their school dances two separate years.

Ira as Gilgamesh in the 2013 Minds In Motion performance (photo by Sarah Ferguson)

What’s your favorite MIM dance?
My favorite MIM dance is going to have to be a tie between “Spooktacular”, and “When The Saints Go Marching In”


What’s your favorite dance/role as a professional ballet dancer?
My most fun role is by far one of the Sailors in “Fancy Free” but the most rewarding roles I’ve had are “The Moor” in “Moor’s Pavane” and one of the Leads in “Carmina Burana.”

Ira in ‘Fancy Free’
photo by Sarah Ferguson

Last question: what’s your favorite MIM t-shirt?

I will forever love the “Taking The Wright Steps’” shirt the most. It holds a nostalgic and sentimental place in my heart.

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