English National Ballet’s Isabelle Brouwers on her lockdown dance life, going back to the studio & dancing in a mask

Isabelle Brouwers, English National Ballet (c) Alex Fine

In this podcast, English National Ballet‘s Isabelle Brouwers gives us an insight into her lockdown experience that coincided with recovering from an injury; she also talks about how she prepared to return to the studio and what it’s like dancing with a mask.

It is an understatement to say that Covid has presented enormous challenges for the dance industry. Dancers have been especially hit, as they have strived to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing within the confines of their homes, often isolated and separated from their families as well as their dance colleagues. And this is before the industry-wide redundancies, covid infections and shifting government policies restricting and delaying live performances around the world.

Isabelle Brouwers, English National Ballet (c) Nath Martin

However, throughout this period Isabelle has remained positive. She shares how she used the time at home with her sister to rehabilitate her injured foot, while taking courses to further her academic career, and writing about dance and reviewing online shows. These goals helped to keep her focused and ensure she was ready to return to ENB’s new multi-million pound home in East London.

Listen to Isabelle describe the feeling of finally being back in the studio, and how the company has managed the dancers’ return to keep them safe, with staggered start times, one-way systems and dance social ‘bubbles’.

Isabelle is absolutely relishing being back at the barre, even though this means taking company class in a mask – something dancers around the world are having to get used to. It’s intriguing to hear a dancer describe how a small piece of cloth has an impact on how a dancer experiences their space, their body and their artform.

Isabelle Brouwers, English National Ballet (c) Alex Fine

Isabelle also looks back at her journey from Germany to the Royal Ballet School and English National Ballet School; her experience of joining ENB where she’s risen through the ranks from the corps de ballet to First Artist.

Isabelle talks about picking up awards including Youth America Grand Prix (2007), Genée International Ballet Competition (Silver Medal 2013), Young British Dancer of the Year in 2013 with nominations in 2015 & 2016, and ENB’s Emerging Dancer Finalist in 2017.

As Isabelle looks to the future, she discusses how Covid is affecting the upcoming season that would normally see her touring the UK and the world. And after six years with the company, she’s drawing on her experiences of working with acclaimed choreographers like Akram Khan and the hope of performing his new work ‘Creature’ later this year, to keep her inspired as the dance world and devoted audiences wait for live performances to recommence and for the show to go on.


Isabelle Brouwers, English National Ballet (c) Nathan Carlson
Isabelle Brouwers, English National Ballet (c) Alexander Yip