"Dancing gives me positive energy"
Hanne Decoutere is obsessed with dance. After the intense year of Hanne Danst (Hanne dances), a television programme produced by Belgian television channel Canvas, Hanne is now organising the Een hart voor Dans (A Heart for Dance) ball together with her dance coach, Geneviève Van Quaquebeke. The event is set to take place on 14 February. "I want to be a Belgian ambassador of classical dance," she says to Xandres. An interview with this inspiring woman about dance, passion, ambition and the love for gorgeous, sustainable clothing.- Picture by Geert Van Hoeymissen
What exactly does the ball entail?
"We are bringing the best of the European dance companies to Bruges for a mix of classical ballet and neoclassical and modern choreography. We're linking it to a scholarship award. Many talented dancers complete a dance education at the age of 18, but they are not yet mature enough to dance in a company. Now, there is a brand new junior company specifically for that group of dancers: Junior Ballet Antwerp. We are donating a scholarship to allow a young dancer start the two-year course and fulfil their dream, just as I was able to fulfil mine through 'Hanne danst'."
Dance as a stimulant
How important is dance to you right now?
"At the moment, I try to take a 1.5 hour dance class two to three times a week. I also do pilates. Dance is my life, and I don't want to give it up. Dancing gives me positive energy. If I'm in a bad mood, my husband will sometimes say, 'Isn't it time for your ballet lesson?' It's kind of a stimulant for me. The energy I get from dance class helps me in other areas too, such as my work."
You have a busy job and two young children. How do you find time for your passion?
"It's certainly not easy to combine everything, but I have a wonderful husband who supports me. He enjoys walking and cycling. We make sure we both follow our passions and plan time for it in our weekly schedule. My ideal scenario is three dance classes a week, but it doesn't always work out. It's okay, though; after the hectic year of Hanne Danst, I really want to be there for my children. I love watching them grow up."
Have you passed your passion for dance on to your children?
"I am cautious not to project my dream on my son or daughter, but during Hanne Danst, I did bring my daughter along to Arabesque, the dance studio I rehearsed at. Anna was four and started taking children's dance lessons there. At the end of the year, she was eager to continue. She now has weekly dance lessons, but she is also still taking swimming lessons, and she might go to the art academy. My son has many natural qualities that would be very handy for a dancer, but he is three and would rather play football. I might be a soccer mum soon! I mostly hope that my children develop their own passion for something the way I did for ballet."
Clothes make the woman
You've been wearing Xandres for years, and you find clothing quite important. How would you describe your own style?
"Clothes make the man or the woman. As a child, I never wanted to wear the clothes my mother laid out for me. My daughter is very much the same. It's not easy, but it does demonstrate character. Clothes allow you to show the world who you are. I find beautiful materials really important. I don't have a ridiculous amount of clothes; I prefer to invest in quality items that stay in fashion and characterise me."
"My clothing style for work is somewhat formal: no frills and not too many prints. My on-screen clothing cannot be distracting. I still try to give it a twist so it doesn't get boring. In my free time, I prefer elegant clothing. That's what for example Xandres offers. Our partnership has been ongoing for eight years, which is quite unique. We reinforce each other. Clothing can improve your self-confidence, and that shows."
Do you feel it is important to support a Belgian fashion label?
"Yes. On the one hand, I am supporting the know-how in our country: the amazing stylists who design the collection. On the other, I find sustainability and honesty in clothing production important. I once moderated a debate on that topic. People don't always realise that clothes are not a disposable product. That results in abusive situations like in Bangladesh, where people are working for starvation wages. I want to know where my clothes come from. Xandres combines the Belgian know-how with European production."
On fanatics and strong women
Xandres chose you as an inspiring woman. Who do you find an inspiring woman?
"I would have to say Belgian dancer Bernice Coppieters. She made it all the way in the dance world. She was only twenty when she was hired at Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. She has been a ballet teacher for five years now. She is extremely charismatic. I admire her willpower: she managed to dance at the highest level for 20-25 years. I have a lot of respect for that..”
Geneviève Van Quaquebeke also inspires me. I'm quite a fanatic, and I found an equal in her. We push each other. Her guidance during Hanne Danst helped me reach a level I never expected to achieve. She has taken me very far in a positive way. She is a good friend now. I learn a lot from her: focusing on main issues, avoiding negative energy... Geneviève is a strong woman with a big heart."
"In the life I'm in now, I mostly admire women in a leadership position or who express a clear vision while preserving their femininity. Women in those roles often behave and dress in a more masculine way. Those who don't, inspire me to be who I am and go for it. I don't need to behave like a man to make it in life. Yes, I'm a ballet dancer; yes, I have long hair; and yes, I like nice clothes, but that does not detract from my worth."
The programme Hanne Danst was a childhood dream come true for you. Een Hart voor Dans is an excellent sequel. What ambitions or dreams do you still have?
"First and foremost, I want my children to grow up healthy and happy, and to be able to support them in that. I would also like to play a role in the dance world as an ambassador for classical dance in our country. That is why I'm pouring my heart into Een Hart voor Dans. I hope it becomes an annual tradition that brings the best of the dance world to Belgium. Other than that, I hope I can continue dancing for as long as possible. Oh, and still being able to do a split when I'm eighty. That would be amazing. (laughs)"