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Gouden Zwaan award for Shirley Esseboom

04 Feb 2010

The Dance Panel of the Dutch Theatre and Concert Hall Management Association VSCD has awarded Shirley Esseboom the 2009 Gouden Zwaan (Golden Swan). The panel praises her restrained technique and beautiful lines that took her to the highest achievable level in dance. Esseboom danced with Nederlands Dans Theater for fifteen years, being one of the leading dancers in many creations by Ji??í Kylián, Lightfoot León, Hans van Manen and other master choreographers. The Gouden Zwaan was presented during the Dutch Dance Gala at Theater aan het Vrijthof in Maastricht on 10 October.

The VSCD Dance Panel on Shirley Esseboom: ‘This dancer, born and trained in the Netherlands, has given the Nederlands Dans Theater audience so much pleasure with her impressive stage performances . During the fifteen years of her dance career Esseboom developed steadily and  was always eager to take on new challenges . Her restrained technique and beautiful lines took her to the highest achievable level in dance.

Shirley Esseboom was a leading dancer with Nederlands Dans Theater in numerousroles  of great diversity, often in works by Jirí Kylián, Lightfoot León or Hans van Manen. With her dedication to dance, her attentive submission to the choreography, her obvious pleasure in dancing and, most importantly, her artistic sensitivity, Esseboom managed to convince time and time again. Her pure immersion in dance and her modest personality work like a magnet. Now that she has left Nederlands Dans Theater to throw herself heart and soul into coaching young dance talents, there are numerous images of this special dancer that will stay with dance lovers forever.’ (judges’ report VSCD Dance Panel 2009)

Shirley Esseboom in a first reaction:’This comes as a big surprise. I feel it’s a lovely present for my entire dance career. For me this has a deep spiritual meaning, I see it as a gift from God’.

Nederlands Dans Theater’s resident choreographers Ji??í Kylián, Paul Lightfoot and Sol León say about Esseboom:

‘Shirley, I watched her grow from a child to a woman, and from a young dancer to a mature artist. A very special trip. I am happy for her to be on it in such a special way.’ (Kylián)

‘For Sol and I, Shirley was always inspirational to create with in the studio. It was on stage though when she would transform into the soulful artistic beauty which captured everyone’s eye, as does the colourful butterfly.’ (Paul Lightfoot and Sol León)

Shirley Esseboom, born in The Hague in 1975, was trained at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. In 1993, she started as a young dancer with Nederlands Dans Theater II. Four years later the step to Nederlands Dans Theater I followed. She danced with this world famous company until just before the summer of 2009, interrupted only by one season when she worked with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo (2003-2004). In 1998, Esseboom won the Encouragement Award from Stichting Dansersfonds ’79. This same fund awarded her the Merit Award in 2008 with the words: ‘Shirley has become a dancer with a completely individual, recognisable signature, with a strong personality, who always keeps looking for possibilities of further refinement and profundity in the many very different choreographies she has danced. This has all come from an evident love for and devotion to the dance profession’ (judges’ report Stichting Dansersfonds ’79).

Esseboom is currently working as a dance teacher and freelance dancer. ‘If I can teach the next dance generation something to preserve the love for dance, my mission is completed’ says Esseboom in an interview (Trouw, 11 August 2009).

A random selection from the many choreographies in which Esseboom danced:
Stamping Ground (her debut ballet), Bella Figura, Petite Mort, Wings of Wax, Overgrown Path, Tar and Feathers, Toss of a Dice, Sinfonietta, Whereabouts Unknown, Forgotten Land, No more play, Sweet dreams, Arcimboldo, Falling Angel and Claude Pascal by Jiri Kylián;

Sh-boom, Speak for Yourself, Silent Screen, Skew Whiff, Shoot the Moon and Signing Off  by Paul Lightfoot and Sol León;

Deja Vu, Monologue/Dialogue and Two by Hans van Manen.

The Gouden Zwaan is the VSCD’s career award. This special award is presented to the dancer or choreographer working in the Netherlands, who the judging panel believes has contributed  impressive or prominent performances during the development of his or her career as a dancer or choreographer. The Gouden Zwaan does not have nominations and is not awarded every year.

The VSCD Dance Panel 2009 consists of: Gemma Jelier, Roland Helmer, Karin Schnabel, Simone Mager, Tim Persent, Mirjam van der Linden, Jasper Weck and Hildegard Draaijer.

For further information on VSCD’s dance awards see:

For further information on the Dutch Dance Days see:

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