Candice Dewaele is a 28-year-old professional dancer from Belgium, and is a dancer in the ballet company of the FriedrichstadtPalast. She has kindly taken some time out from her hectic lifestyle to talk to Quest Belgium about life as a dancer and performer. She also discusses her experiences of moving to Berlin and the problems she has encountered during her career.
Hello Candice and thank you for allowing us to have this interview with you.
How old were you when you first started dancing?
I started ballet at the age of five. But I also did swimming and gymnastics in a sports club at that time so i t was not obvious yet that I would become a dancer.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career as a professional dance?
When I was 13 I realized how much I liked dancing and started focusing on it. My parents were not very happy about it in the beginning. They were worried that the school education in professional dancing schools would not be very good. Luckily it turned out their worries were not justified.
Can you describe to us what it was like growing up in Belgium, were there many dancing prospects there?
Growing up in Belgium was great. I love my country, especially the fact that it is so multicultural. And I really like the variety of languages spoken there. As for the dancing part though, you don’t have many professional dancing schools. Basically it is only the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp. Plus you only have two professional dancing companies, the Royal Ballet of Flanders and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas. This is why I came to Germany. There are many good job opportunities here for dancers, almost in every city.
How many years of training did it take to become a dancer?
It took me about eight years in professional schools. I went to Balletomania in Brussels when I was eleven and had great teachers like Andrzej Ziemski and Piotr Nardelli. At the age of 15 I went to the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp until I was 18. But dancing is always the search for perfection. So even if you are a professional dancer you are always trying to improve, to strive for perfection.
What is your best attribute in dance?
That is really hard to say because as a dancer you focus on your weak points in order to get rid of them. I think I have a strong, flexible back (laughs). What I love about dancing is that even if you are shy, once you are on stage, by dancing you can speak to the audience. It is a great way to express yourself. What problems or challenges have you faced during your time as a dancer?
My ‘problem’ is that I am quite tall, 1,76 meter. Competition from all over the world is huge and you have better chances if you are not that tall since you always need to be smaller than your male dancing partner. So if you are tall, you need to be better than the rest to prevail. My size was also one of the many reasons I applied for the FriedrichstadtPalast in Berlin. Female dancers here need to be 1,73 meter minimum, male dancers at least 1,83 meter, so that was perfect. Have you visited any other countries on behalf of dancing?
Throughout my education I attended various summer courses in different countries. I spent several weeks in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and two months in France. When I was 17, I also did a summer course in the School of American Ballett Theater in New York, a great experience. Once I finished my education, I went to Poland and danced for the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw for a year. I then went to the Compagnie Cieza in Belgium for a couple of months and then came to the FriedrichstadtPalast. When did you start your career at the FriedrichstadtPalast?
I joined the ballet company of the FriedrichstadtPalast in 2002. Like already mentioned I had heard about the preference for tall dancers and got interested. So I watched one of their shows, really liked the performance and decided to apply for it. And have been dancing on the world’s largest theater stage every since (laughs). The ballet company of the FriedrichstadtPalast is unique. We have 40 female dancers and 20 male dancers from more than 20 different countries which is wonderful. And we have the opportunity to perform in front of almost 2000 people every night, an amazing feeling. And you perform up to eight times per week, how do you do it?
In the beginning I found this schedule quite hard, but your body gets used to it. Every new show and the beginning of every new season are challenging. In the FriedrichstadtPalast we also have many different types of dance, classical, modern, hip hop, etc. For the new show ‘Yma – too beautiful to be true’ we even learned artistry for eight months which was very challenging. But the overwhelming reaction of the audience after every show is very rewarding. And once you get used to this rhythm, you can have a normal life besides the stage. How many hours per day do you spend training?
We have classical ballet training every day from ten to eleven. After that we rehearse for the current show ‘Yma’ and also do workshops etc. for upcoming shows. Then we have about four hours off. Around six we come back into the FriedrichstadtPalast, do the warming up for at least half an hour, get our show make-up and hair done, put on our costumes and then it’s show time.
How well did you settle in Berlin?
Very well, I feel home in Berlin. I have been here for eight years, my life and my friends are here. And my love is in the ballet company of the FriedrichstadtPalast, too, so I feel very comfortable here. I’m thinking of going back to Belgium one day but that will depend on so many factors. We’ll see. How is life in Berlin, how does it compare to Belgium?
Berlin is very artistic, you have great galleries everywhere, the cultural life here is very diverse. But apart from that life here is quite similar to life in a city in Belgium, Berlin is just bigger (laughs). What advice would you give to young, aspiring dancers?
Work hard, because the competition all over the world is keen. Keep an eye on what is going on in other countries, the dancing world is very big. Work on your personality. And most of all: enjoy it! Otherwise it’s not going to work. What plans do you have for the future?
I have been dancing in the FriedrichstadtPalast for already eight years but I would still like to stay for some more years, I love my work here. I would like to dance for another five years till I’m in the beginning of my thirties. Then it’s probably time to do something else. I would love to study again, languages or cultural studies. Or event management maybe. We’ll see what the future holds.