With a ballet teacher as a mother, Jozefien Debaillie ended up in dance class as a toddler. "That was easier than getting a babysitter." Because Jozefien is good at learning and her father thinks a solid education is important, she eventually goes to secondary school with an ambitious subject package.
But unlike at primary school, she hates it there. "Dance had become more and more of a necessity. I couldn't do it: sitting in school all day." She was still allowed to audition at the Royal Ballet School in Antwerp, but was rejected to her horror: "I was too small, too fat, had too short arms and legs. My dream was in tatters.
A year later, she was accepted after all, but in puberty the uncertainty struck again. "I felt like I was still that short, fat girl. There was little attention paid to nutrition and health at the ballet school. I struggled to look the way a dancer 'should'.
Because she did not feel ready for the professional world after the course, she continued her studies at Codarts. A revelation. "There was so much room for creativity there. Work placements, various freelance jobs and shorter contracts follow, but it is the time of Halbe Zijlstra's 'culture slash' and when Jozefien hears that Scapino is in need of dancers, she overcomes her trepidation and does an audition.
I used to dance only in primary colours, now I touch all the colours.
However, her start at Scapino was not easy. "Before I started, I had become seriously ill in Malaysia. I was exhausted, suffered from injuries and still had problems with my own body. I did have doubts at the time about whether I should stay, and I'm sure they had doubts about me at Scapino too."
The turning point came in 2016 when almost all the dancers took part in an opera project in Paris, and Ed Wubbe created Risonanza, a duet from the full-length production Pas de Deux, for those who stayed behind - Jozefien and Rubén Garcia Arabit. "It was a kind of 'consolation project', but there was such a click between the three of us and Michiel Borstlap's music. Very inspiring and - also because of the nomination for a Zwaan I received for this role - very confirming. After that, everything fell into place."
- 1987, Heule, Belgium
- Royal Ballet School Antwerp
- Codarts Rotterdam
- Previously danced at
De Meekers, Korzo, Dansgroep Krisztina de Châtel, Dansgroep Amsterdam and on a project basis in the United States, Poland and Austria
- At Scapino since
- Scholarships, awards and prizes
Nomination ‘Swan for Most Impressive Dance Performance’ for her role in Pas de Deux - 2016
I'll see where life takes me, I have so many interests. But if I could, I would keep dancing all my life.
Other highlights follow, in the cooperation with Ed Wubbe and also with Itamar Serussi and Marcos Morau, "who both made me search very deeply within myself to go to extremes". All this has also created more space in her private life: her daughter Lior was born in 2018, followed by daughter Vesper in 2021. She calls motherhood 'life changing'. "I have learned so much about my body and have become much more sensitive. I used to dance in blue, yellow, red, black and white, now I touch all shades of colour. I am enormously grateful that Scapino gives me all the space for this, that motherhood may be part of who I am as a dancer."
Intuition and awareness
Jozefien is very attached to how we humans treat the earth. "I want something beautiful to remain for our children. Intuition, staying close to yourself, not taking anything 'for granted' and being aware of everything you do and leave behind and why, that's what she passes on to her children. "And all that applies equally to who I want to be as a dancer."
Photography: Khalid Amakran | Interview: Astrid van Leeuwen