Robin Park during Dorian
Michel Schnater

When ballet meets hiphop

25 May 2023

Interview with Junior Company dancers Skya Powney and Robin Park about Dorian

Text: Meren Rutten

A story of the quest for beauty and losing yourself, presented in a contemporary setting. The Junior Company, ISH Dance Collective and Dutch National Ballet are collaborating on the new production by choreographers Ernst Meisner and Marco Gerris: Dorian. Skya Powney (20) and Robin Park (18), in their first year with the Junior Company, talk about their experiences during rehearsals for this thriller-like production.

Dorian is an adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, the famous book by Oscar Wilde, and tells the story of Dorian, a handsome, innocent man who moves to the big city. Suddenly gaining high status and mixing with the wrong people, Dorian gradually loses himself and, in his quest for adoration, gets completely carried away at a certain point. When the bad side of his personality appears, Robin comes on stage. Robin says, “The worse things get for Dorian, the more I’m on stage. I actually represent all his bad characteristics and thoughts, which come together in an illusion. My movements are close to the ground and show the audience how horrible I am. Here and there, it’s a tricky role, as I often have to switch suddenly between ballet and hiphop.” However, it’s no coincidence that Ernst and Marco gave Robin this role. Robin says, “I learn quickly and I’ve had lots of practice in those low and hiphop-like movements. But I never imagined I’d get such a good role. It’s a real honour.”

Luca Abdel-Nour Skya Powney rehearsal Dorian
Rehearsal Dorian - Skya dancing with Luca Abdel-Nour
Giorgi Potskhishvili Robin Park rehearsel Dorian
Rehearsal Dorian - Robin dancing with Giorgi Potskhishvili

Emotional role

Skya has been given a special role as well: the character of Sybil – Dorian’s first love – is obsessed by Dorian and does everything to protect him. The passionate role is danced by Anna Tsygankova, a principal dancer with Dutch National Ballet, and then taken over by Skya for a few of the performances on tour. Skya says, “It feels very special to be able to dance the same role as a principal dancer, and especially to rehearse alongside her! The character of Sybil was created in collaboration with Anna, and she develops throughout the piece. Her emotions go from angry to protective, and then to being in love and distraught.”

‘Combining the movements, emotions, music and sets feels like a puzzle coming together’

“For instance, there’s one part where Sybil starts to despair when she sees how badly it’s going for Dorian. To get his attention, she shakes him and literally throws herself at him. It’s pure emotional release – she totally abandons herself to her feelings. That’s also one of the parts I’m looking forward to most.” In dancing the role, Skya sees this emotional side of Sybil’s character as a golden opportunity. “I’m naturally an emotional dancer, so I’m often able to really empathise with my character. In addition, combining the movements, emotions, music and sets feels like a puzzle coming together, and I think it’s wonderful to be a part of that process.”

Meaning behind the movements

Ballet choreographer Ernst Meisner and hiphop choreographer Marco Gerris really involve the dancers in the rehearsal process. Skya says, “To convey the story well, we go through every step with Ernst and Marco, and for each movement we ask ourselves what we mean by it and whether we’d actually have done it in such a situation. That’s the only way we can really tell a bit of the story through each dance step.” Robin adds, “So we can really bring our own creative input to the piece, which makes it even more special to dance in this production. For example, during a rehearsal Ernst asked us, ‘Do you have any other ideas?’ Then I showed him some movements, and when he approved them they were added to the choreography.”

Robin Park during rehearsels Dorian
Rehearsal Dorian - Robin


Another special thing about Dorian is that two worlds come together in one performance: the ballet world of Skya and Robin, and the hiphop world of the dancers of ISH Dance Collective. Robin explains, “It’s wonderful working with the ISH dancers. In the ballet world, you know everyone or at least have heard of them, but it’s great getting to know the unfamiliar world of hiphop – and its dancers! – and to experience the mix of our styles. We don’t just focus on technique, like in classical ballet, but also on how we interact and communicate with one another.”

However special it is for the audience to see these two companies on stage together, it’s just as special for the dancers themselves. Skya says, “What I really enjoy is the positive atmosphere and calm way of working that the ISH dancers bring along. Ballet dancers are extreme perfectionists – actually we’re all workaholics. Although that does help us achieve our goals, it sometimes creates a lonely workplace. When the ISH dancers come into the studio, they bring a good vibe with them. Besides creating a fantastic production, we’re also forging friendships!”

  • Dorian will be performed until 16 June in theatres across the Netherlands! Click here for info & tickets