Isabelle Brouwers, English National Ballet, First Artist, Reflects on The Genée Ballet Competition

As the Royal Academy of Dance kicks off the Genée International Ballet Competition in Hong Kong (running from 3-12 August 2018), we asked former Silver Medal winner Isabelle Brouwers about her experience of one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions.

Isabelle Brouwers was awarded the Genée International Ballet Competition Silver Medal in 2013. Born in Germany, she trained at the Royal Ballet Lower School and English National Ballet School and went on to join the English National Ballet in 2014 and was promoted to First Artist last year.

What is your fondest memory of the Genée International Ballet Competition experience from 2013?

Isabelle: One of my favourite moments was the welcoming ceremony in Glasgow! We were welcomed by wonderful bag pipe players wearing kilts and I thought it was such a beautiful way of giving us a glimpse into the culture of the host country!

I also absolutely loved working with choreographer Robert Binet; I had the chance to get an insight into his choreographic style and perform his solo in the finals!

How was the Genée a unique competition experience for you?

Isabelle: I believe the Genée International Ballet Competition is particularly special and unique because it has such a wonderful focus on the holistic learning experience, rather than simply the competitive aspect!

I felt I took away much more than a medal; it felt like a wonderful week of workshops, a great opportunity to take class with world class teachers and work directly with an amazing international choreographer!

Isabelle Brouwers. Photo by Alex Fine
Isabelle Brouwers. Photo by Alex Fine

And how did the Genée experience of help you to grow as both a dancer and a performer?

Isabelle: It was a wonderful platform to be seen by several renowned figures of the international dance world; a great way to build confidence in an ‘observed class’ environment, which is how most company auditions are carried out, and an amazing addition to my CV which would catch the eye of company directors, as well as a perfect opportunity to perform a solo on stage and give me extra experience in handling those pre performance jitters!

In the final, dancers showcase a commissioned variation, a variation from classical repertoire and a dancer’s own variation. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘dancer’s own’ performance and what inspired the piece?

Isabelle: I was very lucky to have a talented choreographer in my class at ENB school called Alejandro Longines who created a piece for me for my Dancer’s Own variation!

I feel most confident with subtly seductive characterisation and love to be playful and cheeky on stage, and my technical forte is my big jump, so Alejandro cleverly took those strengths to create a beautiful and unbelievably fun piece with me, in which I wore a long black skirt (which I used almost as a prop) to a wonderful piece of baroque music!

Isabelle Brouwers. Photo by Alex Fine
Isabelle Brouwers. Photo by Alex Fine

And do you have any advice for the young dancers who do compete?

Isabelle: I believe a good piece of advice for anyone taking part in a competition, is to enjoy the journey and take it as an opportunity to flourish and shine on stage, rather than get weighed down by extreme pressure on yourself and excessive obsession on the competitive aspect.

Setting goals and having big ambitions is absolutely essential and a great part of your growth as an artist, but it’s just as important to enjoy and savour the journey, make sure you have fun along the way, because if you’re happy and enjoying yourself as you dance, the audience will enjoy and feel happy too!

Isabelle Brouwers
Isabelle Brouwers