Elaine - 'Dance is a collaboration between people'

19 January 2021

‘Dance is more than just performing the steps the choreographer teaches you. It is a collaboration between people.’ Elaine is a student in the first year of the Bachelor of Dance programme. Here she talks about the combination of classical and modern dance, finding your own persona as a dancer and the preparation for a professional career.

The unique feature of the Royal Conservatoire’s Dance programme is that students are taught a variety of styles, all on the basis of a solid grounding in classical ballet. Elaine: ‘I started professional classes when I was ten. The programme I followed focused mainly on modern dance, but I was keen to combine that with more classical training. So halfway through my second year of secondary school I auditioned for the Royal Conservatoire. I was accepted and since then I have been studying in the Dance department. I completed secondary school in the School for Young Talent.’

Classical and modern
‘My very broad training background makes it easy for me to adapt in a particular school. I want to develop in as many facets of dance as possible, and this programme, with its distinctive combination of classical and modern, allows me to do so. From the later years of secondary school, students in the Dance department work very intensively with Nederlands Dans Theater in the Young Talent Project, in which we learn and perform NDT repertoire and work with the company’s dancers, choreographers and repetitors. You learn a great deal in terms of dance technique, but also about the relationship between a dancer and the people they work with and about the dynamic in a company.’

Elaine: 'I want to develop in as many facets of dance as possible, and this programme, with its distinctive combination of classical and modern, allows me to do so.'

It is important to develop your own persona as a dancer, says Elaine. ‘It is not easy to question who you are. Exploring your identity can be scary, but it is good to leave your comfort zone in that way. Sharing your vision as a dancer has become increasingly important in the last few decades, so practicing that helps in the preparation for your career. In the modern dance world it is increasingly normal for dancers to collaborate with choreographers in a creative process marked by openness and dialogue. Dance is not just performing the steps that a choreographer teaches you. It is a collaboration between people. In very traditional programmes, or as a younger student, you follow the teacher as closely as possible, but the further you advance, the more important it is to form your own vision and to express it. The department encourages us to reflect on that and to refine our vision.’

Preparation for a professional career
The further you progress in the Dance department, the more you are prepared for a future professional career. ‘For example the Bachelor of Dance programme prepares us, especially from the second year, for doing auditions. We receive a lot of information, will be writing an audition plan and audition photos are taken. This year, due to corona, there are almost no auditions at companies, so I now mainly focus on my technique and being creative in the studio. I am also working on my CV, for example by attending summer courses abroad or by participating in video productions. At the end of the day an audition is always about identifying the best dancer, but your CV can already give an impression of who you are as a dancer. And as you gain experience you are also building a network. It always helps when someone can look back with a positive feeling on a previous collaboration with you. The school helps in building that network, for example by organising scholarship lessons, workshops, inviting guest teachers and, of course, through the Young Talent Project.’

Elaine: 'The further you progress in the Dance department, the more you are prepared for a future professional career.'

‘I am also spreading my wings this year and exploring other disciplines that can be combined with dance. For example, by working with others on photography and film projects and by writing in order to share my ideas with others. I would prefer to join a company when I complete my studies, but a growing number of dancers become freelancers and work on individual projects with different companies. That is certainly also something I might consider.’

Passion and determination
Despite the corona epidemic, my passion for dance has perhaps grown even stronger in the last year. I have learned that you can’t take the studios, the teachers or the live music with the piano for granted, and the motivation from returning to the studio was so great that I am now working harder, and perhaps even more efficiently, than ever. It was nice to realise that with hard work I could still achieve my goals. As a dancer you need to be very determined, and to my mind you should set your sights as high as possible. Focusing on that, and remaining aware of what is possible, only strengthens your motivation and your discipline.’

Interested? Go to our 'Apply now' pages for more information about the Royal Conservatoire and the Dance department.