Brand-new version of Giselle from English National Ballet

Isabelle
Isabelle

In terms of excitement, Isabelle Brouwers puts it in the as-good-as-it-gets category – to work and perform in English National Ballet’s creation of a brand-new version of Giselle, the greatest romantic ballet (Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, October 26-29).

Even better, she’s working with Akram Khan, one of the most sought-after choreographers working today.

“It’s just amazing,” says Isabelle, a graduate of the English National Ballet School and now beginning her ascent through the ENB ranks as an “artist” with the company – a stepping stone towards the cherished dream of becoming a principal dancer.

“He has got such fantastic energy in the studio, and what I really admire is the fact that he is not classically trained.”

It is the Indian dance influence that is coming through – a fascinating challenge for the performers: “It’s very special to be part of the creative process right from the beginning, and the great thing is that he really makes you feel you get an input. It’s actually really a collaboration, which is quite challenging but really rewarding to be able to explore all these different characters. It is just wonderful. He is so renowned, he has won so many rewards, and yet he is such a humble artist. He appreciates our input. I have never before been part of the creative process of a ballet before, so this is really especially exciting for me. We had the opportunity to give up two weeks of our summer holiday to lengthen our research development, and I just jumped at it!”

Speaking mid-summer, Isabelle admitted it was too early to talk in detail about the production, still just in embryo form – but she’s convinced something genuinely special is emerging, part of ENB’s mission to respect the classics and yet also reinvigorate them while taking them out to people outside London.

“I started at the Royal Ballet School when I was 12, and then I went to the English National Ballet School where I had an amazing three years. I joined the English Ballet School when I was 15. I graduated and two days later I joined the company. I was completely awestruck that I was offered a place.

“What I really loved about the school is that they really value individuality, that they put an emphasis on your own strengths and personality. It’s amazing, a huge group of dancers with great professionalism working together, but you don’t lose your individuality. You are extremely uniform and well rehearsed, but there is still scope for that individual spark that is beautiful in the space. I think that’s what makes ENB very special, and it is also a great company for promoting young talent as well. I was very fortunate to be able to take part in the emerging dancer competition in my first year and second.”

Another highlight was the chance to see the world: “We had a pretty amazing tour to China for three weeks and then one week in Singapore. Travelling is one of the most amazing things you can do. I love London and it is where my roots are, but it is wonderful to be able to travel the world, to explore the world, to be able to see new places.

“I have really loved my time with the company so far, and I would love to progress. It is everybody’s dream to work their way up the ranks to principal dancer.”

It’s just not possible to try to set out a timetable, Isabelle concedes: “I think it’s a question of working really hard every day and keeping really inspired and hopefully the chances will come up. But I have been incredibly lucky. I have already had some amazing opportunities.”

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