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05 May 2020 | Nieuws

Sara de Greef: ‘Happy to see people had faith in me’

To Sara de Greef, winner in the Dance category in 2019, the nomination came as an immense surprise. “Of course, I knew the Piket Art Prizes from the sidelines,” she explains, “but at that moment I was in London working with Studio Wayne McGregor, and I felt I had left the Netherlands behind me.” Sara was not really on firm ground at that time. She had just completed a very intensive, but also extremely instructive year as an NDT intern, and now had to get used to a different climate at Wayne McGregor’s. “And, well, London is fantastic, of course, but I hardly knew anyone there,” Sara says. “So I was really happy to see people had faith in me.”

An investment

“On the evening of the awards ceremony, I didn’t expect anything,” Sara says. “When I heard the jury describing the winner, I thought ‘this is not me, this is not about me’. So winning was actually quite a shock.” What touched her was that she received the prize mainly because of her creative talent, whereas, at the time, she was not at all active as a choreographer. “I felt that the prize should, directly and concretely, go to my work, that I had to create something forthwith.” Now she knows it is not a matter of ‘something for something’. “By talking to others, I found out that I should see the prize as an investment in myself as an artist.”
Sara believes that, in order to develop as a choreographer, it is also important to gain experience as a dancer. “I always try to find something new, like my great example Jiri Kilian. New movements, of course, but the novelty can also be in the music or in the mood, the atmosphere. If you don’t want to get stuck as a choreographer, I think you must know what it’s like to be a member of a company, train every day, learn repertoire, work a lot with others.” Around her she sees young choreographers mostly looking for their own style, their own signature. “But if you want to remain innovative, you must be challenged.”

Auditioning is expensive

The cash prize was very welcome, too. “After Studio Wayne McGregor, I wasn’t sure when I would have a job again, and thanks to the prize I could be much more relaxed about auditions.” Auditioning means travelling, and travelling costs money. As a dancer you are in danger of missing opportunities, because you lack the funds to audition. In this respect, the Piket Art Prize enabled Sara to learn and gain experience. Auditions with GöteborgsOperans Danskompani in Sweden and Batsheva Dance Company in Israel were of particular value to her.

Sara made this video of one of her improvisations in Reggio Emilia, just before the lockdown became effective.

Aterballetto in Reggio Emilia, Italy, engaged Sara for Johan Inger’s production of Don Juan. She managed to return to the Netherlands just before the lockdown became effective. Rehearsals will probably be resumed in May; the opening night is scheduled for late June. After the summer, Sara will be going to Munich where she has been offered a contract by the ballet company of the Gärtnerplatztheater. “I would like to stay there for a few years, and I also want to go on making things. They don’t have something like NDT’s Switch, where dancers put together a programme with their own work, but I do hope I will be given the opportunity to create, not only for myself, but also for others.”

Photo: Hessel Waalewijn, text: Anna Beerens