The Arts

A Dancer in Lockdown

This principal dancer of the Ballet Flanders in Belgium found herself having to train out of a cramped flat for the majority of the last year as the pandemic ravaged Europe and with it the performing arts industry. Despite the uncertainty of the future, Nicha Rodboon has big dreams and much to look forward to. 


Wrap up 2020 for us. What were your highs and lows? 

My high would be the beginning of the year when I was on tour with the Ballet Flanders in March to New York City for a week and performed at the Joyce Theater. We danced two pieces from well-known choreographers--’Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue’ by Crystal Pite and ‘Kaash’ by Akram Khan. At the time, my sister was working in New York, also as a dancer, so we got to meet each other after a year and she got to watch two of my performances. It is unusual to have family come and watch my performances as I don't have relatives in Europe, so it felt really special to perform for my sister. 

My low would be the lockdown. A few days after we flew back from New York, Belgium was in one, and we had to do our training at home for the next 10 weeks. It was a difficult time because as dancers we have to move the body, use the space, jump. It was the longest time in my professional dance career that I was not able to work in a dance studio but a small apartment. And since March we haven’t performed for more than 10 people in the audience. 

Can you elaborate further on how the pandemic affects dancers and the dance industry? 

It felt like there was no dance industry since the virus hit Europe. Everything was in lockdown. Dancers couldn’t go to the studios and practice. As we gained more understanding about the situation, we tried to present ourselves through television or online streaming, as we still can't perform in the theater right now. For the Ballet Flanders, we haven’t performed on stage for nine months [as of December 2020]. 

In 2021, what would you like to see done by those in authority?

As we know that online performances are for now the only way for dancers to reach out to the audience, there should be more opportunities for dancers and choreographers to show their abilities and their passion for art. 


As a seasoned dancer, is there any dance you have yet to try that is on your bucket list?

‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ or ‘The Rite of Spring’ is a piece from Pina Bausch, choreographed in 1975. Dancers are on stage covered in dirt and there is one lead dancer who plays a young woman chosen as the sacrificial victim, who must dance herself to death. I would love to do this role. It’s my dream. I can only do my best on casting day and hope that they like me for this role. 

This programme had been planned to be performed in May 2020, but it has been postponed until 2021 or 2022. 

Can anyone dance or do you have to be "born with it”?

I think anyone can dance. Dancing requires a lot of practice. Some people were born with the "perfect body" but no dedication. But if you have a passion for dance, no matter how difficult the situation, you won’t give up. 

What are you doing when you're not dancing?

In my free time, I like to take dance photos or portraits. I like to capture the moment and tell the feeling and emotion of people by combining my background as a professional dancer with my photography. 


Being Thai and having begun dancing in Thailand, in what ways do you want to see the dance industry in Thailand improve? 

There are only a few dance companies in Thailand because there is a very limited audience for concert dance. Thailand has not really been introduced to the concept of concert dance, a show where audience members are only there to watch the dancers perform art. I wish that Thai people would appreciate dance as an art form more than just background entertainment. Also, dancers in Thailand are not paid enough for what they’ve worked so hard for. 


What are some of your favourite Netflix shows?

‘Friends’, ‘The Queen's Gambit’, ‘The Punisher’, ‘Queer Eye’ and so many others. 


What are your five favourite songs to dance to?

‘Two Men Down’ by James Blake

‘Black Sands’ by Bonobo

‘Wasting Time’ by Frivolous

‘Carbonated’ by Mount Kimbie

‘Mac the Knife’ by Oscar Peterson


Where do you go from here? What are your goals?

I know that a dancer’s career is short. Most people stop in their 20s because of injuries or other reasons, and I think that I won’t be dancing by 40. But for now, I’ll keep dancing and enjoying every moment of it, and that’s the goal. Sometimes I can get really tired and upset, but the most important thing is to remind myself what I’m here for and that it’s the reason I’ve moved so faraway from Thailand: to get to do what I love.