Mischa van Leeuwen
When Mischa van Leeuwen, as a student at the National Ballet Academy, was allowed to dance in Ed Wubbe's Perfect Skin in 1997, a whole new world opened up for him.
"At the academy, you mainly focus on pure classical work; I even danced in Swan Lake and Nutcracker & Mouse King. But the fact that you could do something completely different with the same ballet technique, and that you could just be yourself, was a revelation. After the last performance, I was so - positively - touched that I burst into tears."
Unfortunately, there is no dance contract available at that time. So he went to do an internship at the Komische Oper in Berlin. "But I absolutely couldn't settle in there." Three months later he is back in the Netherlands. A work experience place offered a solution: in 1998 he was taken on at Scapino after all.
An Amsterdam street urchin. Mischa has never made a secret of the fact that his childhood was not all rosy. "There was little warmth at home, so I was always out on the streets. Playing football, getting into mischief. Actually, I was quite shy, but to survive on the streets you have to have a big mouth." The dance films with John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever and Grease, struck a chord. "A tough guy, very 'slick', but also with a sensitive side. That appealed to me." At six, Mischa ended up at Hans de Hoog's ballet school in Amsterdam's Wibautstraat. "Dancing was my lifeline. Although I had to fight many a battle even after that, because according to my street friends, ballet was totally 'not done'."
Performing in Carré: which Amsterdammer doesn't dream of that?
The feeling he had during his first Scapino performances has, he says, always remained. "You only change yourself, you grow, as a person and a performer. I came in as a young dog with an eagerness to learn, who always did everything at 120 percent. In the last ten years I have found out that that is not necessary: that you do not always have to go flat out to be strong and present on stage." The fact that he manages to catch the audience's eye these days even when he is just standing still, he says, has to do with increased self-confidence, with knowing who you are. Laughs: "And with my characteristic head, of course!"
- 1977, Wieringen (moved to Amsterdam three months after birth)
- National Ballet Academy
- At Scapino since
- Scholarships, awards and prizes
- Order of merit, Stichting Dansersfonds ’79 – 2011
In essence, I am still the same street urchin. I still tend to follow the codes of the street, but I have learned to be sensible.
Scapino is his home, but because of the number of choreographers he has worked with, he often feels like a 'freelancer within a company'. Working with former resident choreographers Georg Reischl and Marco Goecke has made a deep impression on him. Amanda Miller's Four for Nothing, in which he had his first speaking role, and Ed Wubbe's Kathleen and TING! are also among his favourites. "TING!, in which I play the clown with a sinister edge, was really a party. Certainly when we performed it at Carré - which Amsterdammer doesn't dream of - and when my son Isar was allowed to take part in the final performance."
Isar was born from a previous relationship, meanwhile he also has a second child with fellow dancer Maya Roest: Ada, born in 2021. With Maya, he also started the Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition in 2018, to give opportunities to young choreographers. Asked about its huge success, he jokingly says it "looks good on his CV".
Then, seriously: "I am happy with the opportunities we can give to young choreographers. And of course it would be nice if all the experience I have gained with RIDCC could translate into a leading artistic position in the future. But my ambition is mainly to be happy, if everything in my life goes smoothly, I am more than satisfied."
Photography: Khalid Amakran | Interview: Astrid van Leeuwen