Stijn Celis, Photo by Saarländisches Staatstheater

Real Talk with STIJN CELIS, Artistic Director of the Saarlandisches Staatstheater Ballett.

English Article –

When someone is being interviewed, they always put their best face forward. “Real Talk ” is designed to help young dancers and professionals by providing them with the whole truth about the problems faced by artists…on stage and off.

Stijn Celis is currently at Ballett Theater Basel restaging his Swan Lake. Armando BRASWELL grabbed him after his rehearsal to have a moment of Real Talk…

How do you warm up?

I would say I always try to go with a mindset that will produce a positive outcome for whatever I must achieve that day. I usually make sure my body is one, relaxed… Maybe I’ll do few stretching exercises and then I am good to go. I breathe in and out very deeply and try to make this performance, rehearsal or class into a unique experience…I am aware of that. I see to it, that I make this in to something I have never experienced before. I also regard these moments as an opportunity to improve or change.

Les Noces( Les Grands Ballets Canadiens) Photo by Costin Radu

Do you have a “Pet Peeve”? Something that annoys you about dancers, directors, choreographers?

I am very sensitive to people who do not have the ability to listen. People who like to hear themselves talk. Other than that, I try not to be too sensitive to some of the “ticks” that dancers have in the studio…I use to be more susceptible to that, but I have learned to work my way around those things.

Mistakes made at auditions…

Dancers where their motives are not clear… why they are there. There is a sense of misunderstanding in their body or not really in agreement with they are doing. I would say a lack of conviction, which is not attractive or not interesting.

Dancing with someone you don’t get along with…

It is very rare that I don’t like people. When I have an experience that would be like that, I tend be very curious and want to understand why is there this kind of dislike. Is it not just a projection of myself? And If I spot that the dancer has a dislike for me, I cannot do anything about it. But if I see a potential chance to change it, I do.

The legend of Joseph
with Svetlana Gileva and Jiri Bubenicek -Semperoper Ballet
Photo by Costin Radu

Being 2nd cast or a cover…

In a dancer’s career, there is a time to be a first cast and a time to be a second cast. Being a second cast often doesn’t seem rewarding, but it is the most difficult position in the lineup. You get less attention, but you have make sure the quality is there and that you can deliver. I always choose people for the second cast, that I am confident will give as good a performance as the first cast. For me there is no big difference. Often one must choose, and it is like that.

Saving and improving energy…

Make sure to have the correct mindset and focus on what you are doing. It is all a matter of awareness and how you channel your energy.

I wish young dancers would…

I just think of the young dancers I have in my company and what I would wish… That is a very hard question. Be more alert sensitive to what more experienced dancers can bring to them. Often young dancers are just rolling out of school, and they have a sense that they are there… in the forefront of the state of the art… that is when the trajectory starts. And to continue the canon, should be aware that the older more experienced dancers have gone through that trajectory already and they can benefit and learn from that, just by watching them in the rehearsals and seeing all the hard work. That would be my wish for younger dancers.

Stijn Celis, Photo by Saarländisches Staatstheater

What would you change in the dance world?

There is huge margin for improvement in the dance world of course. I find there is a very strong dance lobby sometimes, that thinks in one track. I would be in favor of a bigger, broader communication amongst dance companies. A bigger flow of communication and information in the dance world.

Is there something you would do different if you could do it again?

I am very fortunate to have achieved what I set out for in the dance world. I wouldn’t do that any different… I think be more confident earlier. If you are quite wise, you can ride the “wave of confidence” much sooner. It is a huge strength and a useful quality. Privately I would invest more time in friends and family.