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Life as it is: the dance school

Five foreign PARTS students testify in a podcast about the sacrifices they make at Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s renowned dance school in Brussels. “Beyoncé is the Queen of Pop, PARTS the queen of dance.”

Marllon (23) was ten when he found out that he is gay, fourteen when his friend died. During that time his father expelled him from the house because of his sexual orientation. That house is in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, where the family had to divide one egg into seven at breakfast. His mother died in the first corona wave. The young Brazilian was living in Brussels at the time, where he was trained at the PARTS dance institute of the choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Since the death of his mother he has not been able to go home: no money.

Marllon is in class with Kia at PARTS. The 19-year-old New Zealand grew up in Johannesburg and was eight when her father got a gun to the head during a robbery. She was in the back of the car with her brother who was still a baby. Her parents decided to quit their jobs – well-paid jobs, her mother worked as a project manager for a bank – and moved from violent Johannesburg to virtuous Wellington, New Zealand.

Generation XIII

A podcast about five aspiring dancers from the student education of PARTS, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s dance school.

Loneliness, a lack of family, the first snow and the lockdown. That and much more is discussed in the interviews and diary fragments of the students recorded on the telephone. The podcast is an accessible way to portray the top school.

True? At and in the usual podcast apps: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Stitcher.

After her dance training in New Zealand, Kia went to Europe on her own to try out as a dancer. She auditioned for PARTS in Barcelona. Back home after a 40-hour trip, she found the redeeming message in her mailbox: she had been hired. In the podcast ‘Generation XIII’, Kia says that one of her teachers from the dance school started crying when hearing the news.

‘I don’t know where I’ll be living in two years. I think that’s an exciting thought, ‘you hear her say. Today, Kia is back in New Zealand, where the corona virus has been virtually eliminated. A storyline for the follow-up episodes: will she ever return to Brussels?


The dance school holds auditions all over the world for its three-year training as a dancer or choreographer. In the previous selections, in 2019, 1,200 young people took part in auditions in 27 countries, mainly in Europe, but also in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, Tunisia and the United States. Marllon volunteered in Rio. In one of the seven episodes online, the Brazilian says that the 50 real – converted 7.5 euros – for the audition was a lot of money for him and his family. But he really wanted to be part of the PARTS family: “Beyoncé is the Queen of Pop, PARTS the queen of dance.”

In addition to Marllon and Kia, ‘Generation XIII’ follows three students from the current class, the thirteenth. They talk about the atmosphere at school, their dreams, their passion for contemporary dance and their life in Brussels. What the first snow felt like and what it is like to be whistled after on the tram as a young woman. Almost all of them are homesick for their home country, they say in diary messages left on their mobile phones.

Since the death of his mother in the first lockdown, Brazilian dance student Marllon has not been able to go home yet. No money.

It’s those ‘little’ personal testimonials that make ‘Generation XIII’ worthwhile. PARTS is a top school that does not just let everyone in. It evokes the cliché image of big egos and hyper-ambitious students with an over-my-minded mentality. That ‘Fame’-like image – based on the American series from the 80s about a dance school in New York – is incorrect, says Delphine Hesters, who makes the podcast and has followed the dance school for almost twenty years. It’s the opposite. After all these years, I am still amazed at how generous and curious the students are. They really learn together, as a group. ‘

The cultural sociologist also noticed that PARTS works less top-down with its students than can be expected from a top school. ‘The school gives its students the opportunity to find their own voice. If you decide to become a mathematician along the way, that’s fine. ‘

Residence permit

In recent years, Hesters has conducted a great deal of research into the financial situation of young artists. The podcast shows how decisive socio-economic conditions can be. And now even more, during corona. Marllon does not leave Belgium, while we hear his French fellow student Zoë leave a message from the spacious house of her friend in France where she stayed during the lockdown. ‘Such differences determine which choices non-Europeans make after their education. If they don’t find work, chances are they will have to go home because they don’t have a residence permit. ‘

© Anne Van Aerschot

Finally, there is of course corona itself. The school was closed for a while, the students are still taught bubbles. The virus makes us cautious about touch, while dancers rely on physical contact. As a result, an unsuspected problem arose, says Hesters. ‘Because they can dance less or be physically active, there are more injuries. Add to that the isolation from corona and you can imagine that life at the dance school is not easy for everyone. I hope for them and the story that the third year of school will be all about dance again. ‘

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