English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer 2017 Competition – 5 Questions to 4 Finalists

Interviewed - Isabelle Brouwers, Rina Kanehara, Madison Keesler and Guilherme Menezes - 4 of the 6 Emerging Dancer 2017 finalists.<br />© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

Interviewed – Isabelle Brouwers, Rina Kanehara, Madison Keesler and Guilherme Menezes – 4 of the 6 Emerging Dancer 2017 finalists. © Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

Full Details of English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer 2017
www.ballet.org.uk

English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer Competition, and the companion People’s Choice Award and Corps de Ballet Award are unique in British ballet in throwing the spotlight on more junior dancers or “tomorrow’s stars” as ENB put it.

This year’s competition takes place at Sadler’s Wells on the 25 May when 6 dancers, selected by their peers, perform live solos and duets before a panel of judges and an appreciative, not to say emotional, audience, before one is crowned the winner. It’s a terrific chance to concentrate on just the dancers and pick out the ones that are going to take the art forward and make us go “wow” in future.

We asked all 6 of the 2017 finalists the same 5 questions and 4 responded – thank you…

    Isabelle Brouwers
    Rina Kanehara
    Madison Keesler
    Guilherme Menezes
 

All 6 Emerging Dancer 2017 finalists - Madison Keesler, Guilherme Menezes, Isabelle Brouwers, Emilio Pavan, Aitor Arrieta and Rina Kanehara.<br />© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

All 6 Emerging Dancer 2017 finalists – Madison Keesler, Guilherme Menezes, Isabelle Brouwers, Emilio Pavan, Aitor Arrieta and Rina Kanehara.
© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)


 

Isabelle Brouwers.<br />© Peter Teigen. (Click image for larger version)

Isabelle Brouwers.
© Peter Teigen. (Click image for larger version)

Isabelle Brouwers

Where and when did you realise you just had to be a dancer?

I went to my first ballet class when I was living in Romania. I was instantly mesmerised; while my friend followed flies around the room and my sister monkeyed around hanging off the barre, I remained captivated by the teacher demonstrating beautiful Russian style port de bras and explaining everything in a foreign language which to me was so exotically captivating. I continued weekly classes and when I moved to Mexico I picked up to daily private classes and started competing internationally. Although I was already training on a daily basis with very professional coaches, the real turning point, which really made me realise my great desire to dance, was in New York in 2007 when I was told at a competition that my feet and leg lines wouldn’t allow me to ever become a professional dancer. Although I was hurt to hear that, aged merely 11, I knew I had a spark that wouldn’t allow me to ever give up and I had a passion for dance that would defy my physical limitations so I used this comment as a springboard to work even harder and pursue a career as a ballerina!
 

Isabelle Brouwers.<br />© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

Isabelle Brouwers.
© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

What are your top 3 dance moments? And what role do you most lust to do?

Being called into the principal’s office after my final Christmas showcase at English National Ballet School to receive the news of my contract offer at English National Ballet from Tamara Rojo herself. Performing Le Corsaire and Paquita pas de deux with fellow English National Ballet dancer Jinhao Zhang at the legendary La Fenice theatre in Venice. Working closely with two choreographic geniuses: Akram Khan in the research and development and then the creation process of Giselle and performing the role of Myrtha in his piece and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in the lead up to this Emerging Dancer. Performing the role of Myrtha four times in Mary Skeaping’s classical Giselle and subsequently reading a humbling great review in Dancing Times about one of those performances. Being awarded the 2nd place title at the Young British Dancer of the Year award (and being told it was an extremely close score!)

I have too many roles in mind! I’d love to perform the title role in Roland Petit’s Carmen, Sylvie in Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, Akram Khan’s Kaash, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Faun and the ultimate classic Odette/Odile (especially Odile!)
 


 

Who are your dance heroes?

Tamara Rojo – aside from her technical and artistic excellence, she inspires me through the legacy she is creating every day in transforming the prestige of English National Ballet into a globally recognised institution of artistic excellence and through her astounding intelligence and knowledge of global affairs. Pina Bausch – the ultimate artist, she created revolutionary work which transcends the test of time because she was able to truly capture and convey raw human emotion through her movement vocabulary. Natalia Osipova – her superhuman energy devours the stage and her fearlessness grips me and she always surprises me with the unexpected. Li Cunxin – this incredible man endured unbelievable hardships in deprived rural China and with incredible tenacity rose to be one of the world’s greatest dancers and spread his talents into the finance world to then become director of Queensland Ballet.
 

What do you do when you don’t do ballet?

Having lived in lots of developing countries while I was growing up, I was exposed to a lot of poverty and it grieved me to witness such inequality so I’ve devoted a lot of my free time trying to put in my little part to help those less fortunate to improve their condition through different charitable projects. Most recently I had an incredible eye opening experience collaborating with arts charity Anno’s Africa to teach ballet to orphans in Kibera, Kenya’s biggest slum, and I was so humbled and touched to see the joy in the children’s eyes! I’m also a huge lover of different art forms and we’re so lucky in London to have an incredible variety of free museums so I love exploring new exhibitions around the city (my recent favourite being at the Tate Modern). I’m quite the bookworm and a huge John Irving fan, I think I’ve read all of his books! I’m also a huge foodie who loves winding down by preparing a nice meal after work and I have my own little food blog on Instagram where I post a lot of my recipes and restaurant recommendations!
 

Isabelle Brouwers in Charlotte Edmonds' Pelican.© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

Isabelle Brouwers in Charlotte Edmonds’ Pelican.
© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

What is your biggest dance wish?

My ultimate goal is to stretch and surpass all my limits to become a principal dancer, but I think my biggest dream is to make an impact beyond the stage with my dancing… Whether it’s using the power of this art form to help the less fortunate escape the harshness of their surroundings for a little while, as I witnessed in Kibera, or allowing someone to open their mind to pursuing an artistic career path or simply inspiring someone to start attending ballet classes, I want to be able to leave a little mark on someone’s heart…
 

 

Rina Kanehara.© ENB. (Click image for larger version)

Rina Kanehara.
© ENB. (Click image for larger version)

Rina Kanehara

Where and when did you realise you just had to be a dancer?

I started ballet classes when I was about 5 years old and from that time I always dreamt of being a ballerina. At that time I did ballet only once a week at a very very small private ballet school close to my house. When I turned 10 years old I started to think seriously what I could do to become a ballerina, so I started going to the ballet competitions in Japan. In my school summer vacation, my parents supported me by giving me the opportunity to go to the summer courses in overseas ballet schools.
 

Rina Kanehara.<br />© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

Rina Kanehara.
© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

What are your top 3 dance moments? And what role do you most lust to do?

My biggest career highlight until now is when I performed Clara/Sugarplum Fairy in Nutcracker. The second is when I had a chance to perform the Peasant pas de deux with Cesar Corrales in the opening night of Mary Skeaping’s Giselle. The third is when I performed in In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated as part of English National Ballet’s recent triple bill.

I would LOVE to dance the role of Giselle one day!
 


 

Who are your dance heroes?

I don’t have one specific dancer, but I always love dancers that can touch someone’s heart through their dancing. I believe that ballet has enough power to move people’s hearts.
 

What do you do when you don’t do ballet?

I love spending time with my family and friends 🙂 I watch funny TV shows or listen to music a lot when I want to relax in my room.
 

Tamara Rojo and Rina Kanehara in Akram Khan's Giselle.© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

Tamara Rojo and Rina Kanehara in Akram Khan’s Giselle.
© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

What is your biggest dance wish?

It’s hard to pick only one thing but if I have to choose… I want to make as many people possible happy with my DANCE!
 

 

Madison Keesler.© ENB. (Click image for larger version)

Madison Keesler.
© ENB. (Click image for larger version)

Madison Keesler

Where and when did you realise you just had to be a dancer?

I was only 10 years old when I made a very conscious choice to pursue dance as my future career.

Things within my family’s life were at a crossroads. My parents and I had moved from Colorado to Miami, Florida and at that time there were no good ballet programmes for kids my age in the area.  Without putting any pressure on me at all, my mother asked, “do you want to continue dancing?”  Knowing that the choice to continue or to stop was completely up to me gave me a freedom to follow how I truly felt.  Even at this young age, I had no doubts about the passion I felt for ballet.  In this moment I made a choice to pour all of myself into dance. I am extremely grateful that thanks to my parents unwavering support, I was able to turn my childhood dream into a reality.
 

Madison Keesler.<br />© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

Madison Keesler.
© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

What are your top 3 dance moments? And what role do you most lust to do?

Oh gosh, it is really hard to only pick three!

After I had come back from dancing with John Neumeier’s Hamburg Ballet (which was also a top moment in itself), Helgi Tomasson chose me to step in for an injured dancer for the role of “Juliet” in his Romeo and Juliet. In the end, I didn’t perform the role because the injured dancer came back from her injury earlier than expected; however, the week of rehearsals I received was an amazing experience nonetheless.

Another amazing moment for me was when I got the opportunity to perform “Swanilda” in Coppelia with NBA Ballet in Tokyo, Japan. It was the first full-length principal role I got to perform in a professional company and I’ll never forget how great the experience was!

My most recent top dance moment was working with Akram Khan during the creation of his new Giselle for English National Ballet.  In the end, I even got to perform the title role!  Each performance was an amazing adventure, and the creation process was the most eye-opening experience I have had in my career thus far.

The role I most lust to do is, without a doubt, “Juliet” in Romeo and Juliet.  
 


 

Who are your dance heroes?

There are many dancers that I have great admiration for, but one name comes to my mind when I think of my dance heroes: Julie Kent.

Since I was a young girl, Julie Kent has always been the ballerina I dream to emulate. Her dancing is pure beauty and grace.  I had also always heard about how humble and kind she is as a person, and I recently got to see that for myself!  I had an opportunity to sit and talk to her for about 20 minutes — yes, I was completely star struck!  She truly is my dance hero as a dancer and now also as an artistic director.
 

What do you do when you don’t do ballet?

When I’m not dancing I am trying to live my life the fullest.  I am exploring, meeting new people, seeing other live performances of all different genres, reading, writing, watching good films, and anything else to expand myself as an artist and a human.
 

Madison Keesler in Liam Scarlett's <i>Variations on a Theme</i>.<br />© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

Madison Keesler in Liam Scarlett’s Variations on a Theme.
© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

What is your biggest dance wish?

My biggest wish is that we never underestimate the true potential of dance as an art form. We must not forget that ballet is first and foremost an art. Too often I see young dancers consumed by the purely technical aspects of dance.  While I believe that there is a time and place to explore the physical side of dance, I hope that we also continue to dive into the emotional and artistic side of dance as well.
 

 

Guilherme Menezes.© ENB. (Click image for larger version)

Guilherme Menezes.
© ENB. (Click image for larger version)

Guilherme Menezes

Where and when did you realise you just had to be a dancer?

I was about 11 years old and still living in Brazil. At that age I started going to ballet classes every day instead of only twice a week. I also started to enter different ballet competitions so performing was something I started to be more comfortable with.
 

What are your top 3 dance moments? And what role do you most lust to do?

Lander’s Etudes is definitely one of my favourite ballets and I have been able to perform both Corps and Principal parts. Recently I went on a 3 month exchange with the Royal Danish Ballet and I got to perform Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with Holly Dorger and discovered a freedom in dancing that was unknown to me before. Working with Annabelle Lopez Ochoa on the creation of Broken Wings was also a highlight in my career because it became a beautiful piece and Annabelle’s energy made the whole process really special.
 

Guilherme Menezes.© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

Guilherme Menezes.
© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

Partnering is one of my favourite things in ballet, so I would love to perform some of the big partnering roles such as Romeo and Des Grieux.
 

Who are your dance heroes?
I admire many different dancers for their different qualities so it’s difficult to single them out. Baryshnikov was the very first professional male dancer I ever watched on a VHS and he inspired to me start taking dance more seriously.
 


 

What do you do when you don’t do ballet?
When I’m not dancing I try to have a normal life like hanging out with my friends and watching Netflix even though I don’t have much time for it! Most days when I’m off I try to rest and make sure I recover for when I have to be back at work. It’s all part of the ballet lifestyle.
 

Ksenia Ovsyanick and Guilherme Menezes in Makoto Nakamura's Ripple Effect.© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

Guilherme Menezes and Ksenia Ovsyanick in Makoto Nakamura’s Ripple Effect.
© Dave Morgan. (Click image for larger version)

What is your biggest dance wish?
I wish to be able to work with as many people as possible. Dance with different partners, work with different choreographers and learn from different teachers. It’s wonderful how much people have to give and add to your career and life. That’s what keeps this art form alive.
 
 

About author
Work for DanceTabs
Reviews on Balletco

Bruce Marriott is editor of DanceTabs

DanceTabs © 2017 All Rights Reserved

© All here is copyright DanceTabs and the author concerned. Do not steal our words or pictures please. Thank you.