As if my wings were cut off

Interview with Lydia Bustinduy, winner of the Prize of Merit 2020

NDT 1 dancer Lydia Bustinduy has been awarded the Prize of Merit 2020 by the Stichting Dansersfonds ’79.  The Dansersfonds Prizes were initiated in 1979 by its founders Alexandra Radius and Han Ebbelaar and are the longest existing Dutch dance awards. Annually, the prizes are awarded during the Nederlands Balletgala, the fund’s benefit performance. Originally, this award ceremony was to take place on Monday 16 November in the DeLaMar Theatre in Amsterdam, in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix. Due to the corona measures, the Gala, and therefore the award ceremony, was moved to Monday 25 January, 2021, and eventually unfortunately cancelled.

The interview below with Lydia was prepared for the Nederlands Balletgala. Despite the fact that the benefit performance is canceled, we would like to share this story of Lydia with you.


text: astrid van leeuwen

“We had just left the US when Trump closed the borders. After a week of dancing in New York, we had just started our Canadian tour in Montreal. But after my first performance, the curtain fell, all theaters in the city had to close. It was a scary situation. We gathered in the hotel lobby and all wanted to get home as soon as possible. I have three young children – what if the Canadian borders also closed and I couldn’t get home? ”

“Fortunately, we were able to return just in time. By then, the Dutch theaters were closed too. It was bizarre, suddenly I was at home! That created mixed feelings in the beginning. After a long time of very hard work and being away from home, I was happy to fully dedicate my time to being a mother again. But simultaneously there was always that feeling of: how long will this take?

Physically, I knew I was okay. We have a small house, so I had to take the ballet and Pilates classes that NDT organized for us in my son’s room, but after so many years of intense physical work, my body was able to cope with it: for a change I wasn’t training and rehearsing all day long.

However, mentally it was a lot harder. I am at the end of my career and just now, now that I am older, I feel much more free, I have the ’state of mind’ to finally be myself on stage. And exactly in that moment everything stopped. It felt a bit as if my wings were cut off. ”

In 'The Hole' (2018) by Ohad Naharin. Photo: Rahi Revani
without touch

“We kept close contact as a company and amongst the dancers. New initiatives quickly emerged, such as a number of Zoom versions of Switch, our annual benefit choreography program. Unfortunately I did not participate, I was busy at home teaching my children. Being Spanish, I am used to a completely different school system, so I really had to delve into the Dutch system.”

In 'FLUKE' (2008) by Mats Ek. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos

“My first rehearsals in the studio after the lockdown were those for Standby, Paul Lightfoot’s farewell choreography. All dancers participated in it, but the work was recorded in pieces, with no more than three people in the studio, each within his or her own square. Except for the people who share a household, no one touched one another. That in itself is of course very strange and atypical for dance.”


“I am very happy that I can currently work with Roger (Van der Poel, who unexpectedly danced his last performance at NDT in Canada – ed.) to bring back Get Out, the duet that Peter Chu made for us in 2019. The Dansersfonds gala will be my first time on stage again and I will also receive the Prize of Merit. I was totally overwhelmed when I got that news. You don’t expect it, you dance for yourself, for your audience, not for a price, and besides: there are so many dancers who work just as hard as I do. ”

“Peter’s duet has a very special meaning to me: he knows how to evoke something very special from every woman he works with. Both from their strength, as well as their modesty and sensitivity. I don’t have to play a role with him, I don’t have to pretend to be different from what I am. ”

“I don’t know how long I will be able to continue as a dancer and that’s why I’m enjoying every moment now. The farewell to Nederlands Dans Theater is of course getting closer, but because of everything that is happening in the world, I cannot make a decision about that right now. One moment I think: it is time to stop, the next moment something deep within calls for me to go crazy one more time. ”

Together with Roger Van der Poel in 'Vanishing Twin' (2008) by Jiří Kylián. Photo (2020): Joris-Jan Bos.

Lydia Bustinduy

In 1997 the Spanish Bustinduy graduated from the Institut del Teatre & Dansa in Barcelona after which she became part of the IT Dansa (the dance company of the theatre school) and worked there for two years before she was accepted to join NDT 2 in The Hague in 1999. After only two years with the second company of NDT, Bustinduy moved on to the first company, NDT 1, where she still enjoys a sucessful career to this day. Bustinduy danced leading roles in works by Crystal Pite, Marco Goecke, Ohad Naharin, Gabriela Carrizo, Franck Chartier, Sol León & Paul Lightfoot and many others.

Watch more photos of Lydia with NDT here