Development of talent: panel

Peak performance is no coincidence. Becoming a real expert in any domain takes a lot of time and effort. This panel discussion relates to sports but is equally applicable to dance. Often, elite athletes have invested more than 10 years of their life before they reach the highest level.

Catharine Allard, director of IT Dansa Jove Companya del Institut del Teatre

“When guiding someone, it helps if they’re smart. And have a nice attitude. When someone has a bad attitude, I can’t work with them. And I need to be able to communicate in order to teach and guide. It’s nice when a performer has the ability to think about what he or she does.”


“We have to help them develop and help keep them motivated. We have to be patient. You can’t expect someone to get something just because you explained it once. They have to be able to assimilate what you’re teaching them. We also have to help them question themselves.”

Jane Lord, freelance teacher and Coördinator of the Outreach Program and Talent Scout for the National Ballet Academy in Amsterdam

“The classical discipline of ballet is very confined. Ask a twelve year old to do something again and she will say yes. Of course she will do what she is told. There is not much room for children to find their own path and learn to trust their instincts. What we can do is limited, but if a kid has pain, we’ll ask them to give the pain a grade from one to ten. We want to give them a voice.”


“When we were looking for talent in smaller schools, we looked at their bodies, but even more we looked at coordination, presence, self-motivation and expression. I’d rather train a highly motivated talent with a powerful presence than someone with a perfect body but a complete lack of motivation.”

Jasper van Luijk, supported by Korzo productions and Generale Oost in the New Creators Initiative

“There is a physicial talent, which you can train, but you have to make sure you train the artistic talent at the same time. Even if maybe they work on a different time table.”


Sanna Nordin-Bates, senior lecturer in sport psychology at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences

“To what extent is perfection realistic or even wanted? Why is it that we have so many female dancers and so many male choreographers? It might be because there are fewer boys, and they get more freedom, more room to grow in their own way, whereas girls are much more praised for doing what they’re told.”


“We measure legs, we can’t measure passion. But this creates seemingly clear criteria of which we really don’t know if in ten years they’re still valid. We don’t know what ballet looks like in ten years, so how would we know what legs, what bodies we need? Bringing in psychology makes a mess of it, but it’s much more honest.”

Marije Elferink-Gemser, assistant professor ‘Sport Sciences’ at the Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen

“We should find a way to give young children with talent more freedom in ballet, more room for creativity.”

“We found that athletic identity scores were very very high among young athletes that dropped out. Much higher than in other sports. A possible explanation could be that they see themselves as a gymnasts more than people. And then when something goes wrong, when they’re not perfect as a gymnast a couple of times, they start feeling like a person instead. We also found these drop-outs to score slightly higher on parental criticism and parental expectations. Maybe this combination is to blame for a higher likeliness to drop out.”

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