From Sant Cugat to one of Europe’s most prestigious dance schools

Catalan Víctor Perez is only 18 years old but he currently resides in Belgium where he is training to become a professional dancer. A student at one of the most prestigious dance schools in Europe run by the international renowned choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, the youngster from Sant Cugat is one of the top 60 contemporary dancer pupils.

CNA / Raquel Correa

January 21, 2011 10:19 PM

Brussels (ACN) .- In the 1960s, Maribel Perez left Murcia (South Spain) and relocated to Barcelona. Unable to earn a living in her hometown, she moved to the capital of Catalonia in search of a better life. Maybe that explains why she understands the mentality of her 18 year old son so well. The teenager has already left his home town of Sant Cugat del Vallès (next to Barcelona) to follow his dream and today resides in the Belgian capital, Brussels. There he studies professional dance. From all over Europe, only 60 people were chosen to enrol in the dance school, PARTS, that is run by one of the most prominent contemporary choreographers in the world, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. According to Víctor, although the dance scene in Barcelona is ‘very strong’, it is not recognised on the same level as it is in Northern Europe.

Víctor always wanted to be a professional dancer. When he was just four years old, his mother Maribel signed him up dance classes at Sant Cugat. Although she just wanted to provide him with an extra-school activity, he fell in love with the hobby and has not stopped dancing since. “Since my first ever dance class, I just loved it”, he recalls with a smile. First he started with traditional dance classes but later moved on to contemporary which he studied at various dance schools in Barcelona.

However, as his passion grew, Víctor realised that Barcelona was too small for him to pursue his dream as a professional dancer. So, he decided to try his luck elsewhere. “I was afraid to leave at first”, he assures, “but there was something missing in Barcelona and I could not find a school that was professional enough”.

The Mecca of contemporary dance in Europe

When Víctor found out about PARTS- the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios, he knew he had found his next step. The prestigious dance school run by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker in Brussels is known as the Mecca of contemporary dance in Europe. To enter into the dance school, students must be aged between 18 and 24 years, be educated to secondary school level and have a good grasp of English. Students must undergo ‘tough’ auditions so teachers can find the best young dancers from Lisbon to Stockholm, Helsinki to Marseilles or indeed, Barcelona. Only one in every 30 dancers that apply to the prestigious school are selected to join a group of 60 elites that are trained every day by choreographers like De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Thomas Hauert, Jérôme Bel and Alain Platel.

Dance is better valued in Brussels

But working with the best professionals in the dance industry was not the only pull factor that brought Víctor to Brussels. “In Northern Europe, dance is more valued than in Catalonia”, says Víctor. “Although dance in Barcelona is improving, it still has a long way to go”.

"There is a huge dance scene in Brussels, with many artists”, Víctor says. “whenever there is a theatre production, it is always accompanied by dance, lots of dance”. For Victor, it is hard sometimes to watch Catalan dance performances as he knows that the dancer in question has studied or been part of a dance company in Northern Europe.

“I always miss dance when I am in Barcelona”, Víctor says. “The last time I got my hands on a cultural programme from the Auditorium of Sant Cugat, I saw that there were just 2 dance shows scheduled in a space of 5 months. Here that is unthinkable” he insists.

“I'd love to rehearse in my own language”

In the future, Víctor dreams of returning to Catalonia. “I'd love to work in Barcelona, and rehearse in my own language”, says Víctor after a rehearsal in English with some of his dance partners from Iceland and Brazil.

However it is clear that when Víctor Perez finishes his training at PARTS, he will inevitably stay in Belgium. "Although the crisis has also arrived in Belgium and there now fewer scholarships for Northern European dance schools, there are still many more personal projects and subsidies available here”, he says before finishing off with, “here it is just much easier”.