“Going on Seventeen”
Directed by Estelle Hanania
Cinematography: Pierre Mazoyer
Style: Benoit Béthume
Make Up and hair: Anthony Preel
Talent: Victor Polster
Sound mix: Benjamin Silvestre
Edit: Estelle Hanania & Pierre Mazoyer
produced by MAP
Interview by Estelle Hanania & Pierre Mazoyer
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Victor Polster, I’m 16 and I’ve been dancing since I was nine. I’ve been studying at the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp for four years, and my life has been a bit crazy ever since we filmed and released the movie“Girl.”
Can you tell us what you’re like, some of your defining traits?
That’s a hard question to answer. I think I’m a very empathetic person — Lukas Dhont (director of the film Girl ) told me so. I think that’s a really important quality for anyone who wants to become an actor. Then there’s also dance that sets me apart. Every new movement I learn or make up transforms me a bit, I’d say. It’s not something I think about while I’m actually dancing, but it’s always changing who I am.
Tell us how you began dancing.
I didn’t really have an“aha moment” — I didn’t see a show and go“whoa! I want to dance!” I’ve just been dancing since I was little, in my living room, with my mom, who was also a dancer. I think we would dance together but my memories are kind of vague. One time, she took me to a dance class with her, I tried it out (I remember it as being a jazz class) and then I just kept wanting to go back, more and more. I wanted to try all the different styles. My mom was an amateur dancer but she’s still really good. We kept dancing together until secondary school, doing jazz classes with amazing music… but then the place closed, and these days we don’t really have the time anymore.
Can you tell us about your family and your relationship with them?
I have a really positive and warm relationship with my family. We’re all curious and creative people. My mom is interested in everything related to art; my dad does photography; my sister dances too, and my brother draws all the time. I’m really happy to have them — they
pass their knowledge and love along to me, even though I had to leave home when I was 11 to go to boarding school. My parents are the kind of people who didn’t try to stop me from going because they understood it was important for me, and that without it I’d have been
really unhappy. They know that learning is a really important thing for me, just like for them.
And how do you think your family would describe you, if we asked them?
That’s a tricky one but I think they’d describe me as somebody passionate about what he does, ready to try anything to achieve his goals. They’d probably also tell you that I’m really curious and want to know everything, which I guess isn’t always a good thing. For example, I always want to know what people are talking about even when it’s none of my business. But I’m honestly interested in everything — if there’s a show that interests me, I absolutely have to go see it. And in order to bridge the distance between you and your family, are there certain
things that keep you especially connected to your siblings, or your parents?
In my family, each kid has his or her own song, received at birth. I don’t exactly remember mine, but I think it was just a recording of me crying as a baby. I’d say we’re all very connected. There’s one memory I have of primary school: we went on a ski trip and it was the first time I’d ever been separated from my parents for so long. Just before we left, I had an audition for the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp. Afterwards, I waited for the results for awhile without hearing anything; maybe the letter from the school got lost or something, so I left without having their answer. When I got back I was super happy to see my mom and my family, but then just as we were reunited, my mom learned I got accepted at the school. It was a really beautiful and particular moment, and I think about it a lot — we were finally reunited but now we’d have to be separated.
This distance between you at school in Antwerp and your parents in Brussels — what has it changed?
It’s definitely changed my relationship with my parents. We see each other only for short periods, over a weekend or a vacation, and that has a way of making our time together more intense somehow. Same with my brother and sister.
Tell us about your friends at boarding school.
Being at boarding school means I see my friends 24/7 — they’re a really important part of my life. They have an influence on me — my way of being, even the way I dress! I’m very happy with the friends I’ve made; we have all sorts of interesting conversations and arguments together. We’re all super into dance so obviously that makes it all the easier to be close with each other. We also go out a lot — it’s kind of necessary what with the discipline we have at school. School goes from 8 am to 6 pm. In the morning we have des regular classes, French and Dutch, and then in the afternoon we have dance from 1 to 6. So we truly have to do something else sometimes, or else we’ll never survive! I also have a female friend with whom I’m extremely close — maybe even closer than a girlfriend. Friendship is something that lasts a lot longer — it doesn’t just come to an abrupt end one day!
Let’s talk about your passion. What are some of the feelings you have when you dance?
Honestly, I have a lot of fun, especially with modern dance. Especially when we dance in pairs — the relationship you have with the other dancer is really incredible. I feel totally free in moments like that. All of a sudden I can express myself without having to speak or even think, and I love that. In the film, too, there’s very little dialogue — lots of things just kind of happen in faces and bodies. Plus there’s the adrenaline rush you get — it builds up, builds up, then somehow it never explodes. It’s really kind of incredible.
And how do you improvise in modern dance?
I usually start by putting on music, and I start dancing without really knowing where my movements are going to take me. That’s how I discover new moves. I always try to be experimenting and discovering new movements. But it’s not about trying to draw on memories. I don’t think when i dance because if I do, I tend to stay a little too stuck in the same story, intention or feeling. Whereas if I quit thinking, I allow unexpected things to come.
What’s your perception of adolescence?
It’s hard to describe it because I’m still in it. But it’s a period where you’re always changing; you’re trying to figure out what you’ll become and what you’re going to do. You create new relationships with certain people — stronger ones than before. You also start to understand
what’s around you better. But these changes can be difficult; there are times I feel really low, especially in the dance world what with all its stress. For example, I already know that at the end of next year, I’m going to have to leave school and start looking for work. So right now, I have to give everything and be super disciplined, because in the end your training period is actually pretty short. It’s really weird to think that I’m not going to go to university, but going to work instead, even though I’ll barely be 18. At that age you don’t really look old enough to be looking for work yet, I think. A lot of us still look super young, physically.
And do you feel like you’re changing?
Yes, very much. I’m thinking differently, learning a lot, I know more things about myself and others… For example, I know what I want to do in the future; I know I want to dance. There were times where I wasn’t so sure about it, which is normal when you’re 15, but now I know! I’ve also changed the way I dance — especially in modern dance where you can discover new things, new choreographers and dancers. And then, especially, there’s been the film. I think I’m more mature, because I’ve worked with people older than I am, so naturally, you grow up faster.
As a dancer, how do you perceive the transformation of your body due to adolescence?
We dancers have a very particular relationship to our bodies because we’re constantly occupied with them. We look at ourselves in the mirror I don’t know how many times per day — sometimes for hours. And your body is changing all the time; sometimes it’s difficult, especially when it’s not changing the way you’d like. When I look at the body I had a few years ago and then today, there’s a huge difference. Also because you work on the same movements daily. I don’t know how many pliés I’ve done in my life but you can be sure it’s
too many! That can bring on injuries; you run the risk of not being able to dance anymore.
And how are you managing it?
Pretty well as far as I’m concerned! Since I’ve trained well from day one, the most useful muscles in my body are well developed. All in all I’m happy with my body!