Terug naar overzicht

17 april 2023 | Nieuws

Isla Clarke: ‘I can move on to my next chapter’

“It feels as if the Piket award ceremony is only a week ago,” Isla Clarke (winner Piket Art prize 2022 (Dance)) “The past few months have been so demanding and intense.” She will be taking next season off for the final stages of her transition and looks forward to what she calls her ‘next chapter.’

Dancing and teaching

However, for now Isla is extremely busy. NDT 1 is travelling to Serbia in early April to perform at the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad as part of this year’s edition of the Belgrade Dance Festival, with work by Jiri Killian, Gabriela Carrizo and Crystal Pite. The company takes the same programme to London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre later that month. Isla is also rehearsing for Raw are the Roots, NDT 1’s new programme which will open at Amare on May 11, presenting new work by Felix Landerer and Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar. In June and July, Isla will be dancing in Ohad Naharin’s The Hole. “My parents will be coming from Canada to see me in The Hole. It really makes me happy. It’s been a long time since they saw me dance.” Earlier this year, Isla performed in Marco Goecke’s In the Dutch Mountains.

In addition, she has been teaching dance students of the Royal Conservatory a piece by the choreographer Johan Inger, which was a new and enriching experience. “They had to get used to being with someone like me, to my personality,” she says, “but it was very fulfilling, I loved it. Being a ballet master is something I could do in the future. It’s a job that bridges dancing and teaching. You need a certain sensitivity for it, to be able to say hard things in a soft way.” Wouldn’t she like to create herself? “I don’t have the urge to create right now,” Isla says candidly, “and it’s something you can’t force.”


Did winning the Piket Prize make a difference? “Definitely,” Isla says. “It enabled me to pay off all my debts, so I can move on to my next chapter.” In its report, the Piket jury stated that the way Isla positions herself within the dance world “will have both artistic and social impact and will resonate beyond what is happening on stage.” The jury described her as someone who could be a role model for many and open up new paths and perspectives. Isla confesses that the jury report moved her deeply. “It felt like an affirmation of me. To hear I could have an impact really touched me.” Isla will be taking next season off to reset and is grateful to her company for giving her this opportunity. “I’ll be embarking on the final stages of my transition and will need time to recover, to take care of myself and get back into shape. I’m excited about what this will bring me. I feel I’m more comfortable in my skin; it influences everything.”

Back to The Hague

Isla, who currently lives in Amsterdam, is thinking of moving back to The Hague. She feels she has more or less outgrown sharing living space and wants to find a place of her own. “I want more stability to finally be able to pour everything into my work,” she says. It may have to do with the fact that her transition is now nearing completion; things are starting to fall into place and what always was ‘in the future’ is now about to take shape. And, yes, Amsterdam has all this dynamism, but Isla feels she could do with a bit more peace and focus. The Hague has a vibrancy of its own and she likes working in Amare. “On the one hand, the place has a lot of empty space and still lacks a clear choreography. I think it needs time to come into its own. On the other, it’s great to find yourself surrounded by all these other artists, hearing people practicing opera while you’re having lunch in the canteen.” She very much likes the dance studios. “These windows, the magnificent view, things going on in the square below. You know, there’s this little red car that shows up every morning at exactly the same time…”

Photo: Hessel Waalewijn
Text: Anna Beerens