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15 februari 2023 | Nieuws

Interview with retiring jury member Isabelle Chaffaud: ‘It’s important to be able to change cap’

Dancer and choreographer Isabelle Chaffaud (MEYER-CHAFFAUD, CLOUD/Danslab) joined the Piket Art Prizes jury in 2017, succeeding Cora Bos-Kroese. She has completed the set term and retired from the jury at the end of 2022. “It’s important for a jury member to be able to change cap,” Isabelle says.

When asked what she values most about her jury membership, Isabelle smiles. “Every retiring jury member always says that it’s the sharing of views and hearing how your fellow jury members research and scout talent, but it’s true! For me, too, these were among the nicest and most valuable aspects of the jury meetings. But I also quickly found out how important it is to be able to change cap. As a jury member you first of all have to look at Dance in all its diversity – style, aesthetics, roots – which means looking beyond your own artistic line and sensibilities. I felt that was genuinely refreshing and nourishing. Secondly, you have to consider each possible candidate independently. It’s not about comparing one style with another, but to value every artist within their own field. When you encounter things that you yourself would not have sought out, you discover the diversity of the Hague dance world. Fortunately, I have always valued the richness of approaching something new, seeing things from another perspective, this has always broadened my world. In that sense I found it easy to change cap!”

A wide scope

As a jury member, Isabelle collaborated with Stacz Wilhelm, who retired from the jury in 2021, and Amos Ben-Tal, who will now have a new colleague. “Stacz and I, and Amos too when he joined the jury last year, we were always in favour of a wide scope. Inclusion is part of the dance world and for me, for us, inclusion and diversity are inherent to it. With the selection of the nominees, it’s essential to be honest and open-minded in every sense. Nevertheless, despite the honesty and integrity we give to our task, when it comes to the ‘winner’, people can be critical about your choice.” She adds candidly: “That was something I hadn’t expected.” Isabelle has given quite some thought to the fact that being nominated really has an impact on the nominee. “One tends to forget that the nominee didn’t ask for the nomination. I think it would be a good thing if there could be a kind of round-off moment after the award ceremony for all of the nominees, an individual exchange between the two jury members and each of the nominees for personal feedback and advice regarding their artistic development.”

Winner takes all?

From her first year as a jury member, Isabelle had strong feelings about the winner-takes-all principle. “I was always in favour of a division of the cash prize. Why not give the winner 6000 Euros and the other nominees 1000 each! 1000 Euros can make a huge difference for a young dancer. They could use it for workshops or a summer course. And don’t forget that auditioning costs money. These days, videos enable companies to do a pre-selection, but when you pass to the next round, you have to pay for your flight and accommodation yourself, knowing that you may be asked to leave the studio after the first hour. In addition, sadly enough, some companies charge a fee for auditions! And as an aspiring choreographer you need PR, you need to put yourself forward. Here, too, 1000 Euros could be an immense help.” As a member of the jury, Isabelle has, of course, always respected the existing conditions, but she has never been silent about this point. She cannot help profoundly hoping there may be changes in the future.

In the end it’s about human experience

Nowadays, art, and dance too, is all about collaboration and crossover. Isabelle doesn’t yet know who will succeed her, but she hopes they will also be able to look beyond their own pool. Does she have a word of advice for her successor? “Be personal when it comes to contact with the nominees, to giving tips and feedback,” she says without hesitation. “In the end it’s about human experience.”

Photo: Hessel Waalewijn