Living the Nederlands Dream: Drew Jacoby

Published in the October/November 2013 issue.

Photography by Casey Herd


The gypsy goddess of contemporary ballet has found a home: Nederlands Dans Theater. But although the avant-garde company in The Hague seems like a natural fit for Drew Jacoby’s fierce style, she was rejected when she initially tried out for former artistic director Jim Vincent. “I’ve always been too tall for everything,” says Jacoby, who’s 5' 11". “Opportunities never fall into my lap. I’ve always had to push and search and try and fail until something works.” Those very qualities were what led current artistic director Paul Lightfoot to ask her to join. “Drew’s ambitious, and I love that,” says Lightfoot. “She works so hard that sometimes we even have to tell her, ‘Drew, enough!’ ”

Now that she’s joined the company, in stereotypical Dutch fashion, her day starts with a 10-minute bike ride to the studio. It’s a quieter lifestyle than what Jacoby was used to in New York. (She sees her husband, who’s still living there, every few weeks.) Her schedule mostly revolves around rehearsing, performing and keeping her body in shape—sometimes with twice-daily visits to the company’s physical therapist, a new luxury.

NDT has turned out to be exactly what she wanted. “Freelancing was kind of a lonely career,” she admits. Dancing for the many top choreographers who come to NDT has stretched her. She’s learned to speak and even sing onstage. She’s been forced to make her steps more specific, and to move with a softer quality. “I was used to having the freedom to dance however I felt like—which was always with full attack,” Jacoby says. “To be able to challenge myself in new styles, it’s exactly what I was craving. I knew in my gut this was something I had to try.”

Preparing for her ride to the studio

Rehearsing a piece by resident choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot: “Sol is all about the quality, the imagery, the mood and the meaning,” says Jacoby, “while Paul does the technical stuff—and creates the crazy partnering by throwing you around and seeing what happens.”

Getting ready backstage with another dancer before a performance of Crystal Pite’s "Parade."

In company class

Making her breakfast of oatmeal and mangos with French-pressed coffee at home

Rehearsing with Lightfoot. “Drew has such a strong, feminine presence, but there’s still a little girl in there that she holds on to,” says Lightfoot.

Getting ready in the dressing room of The Amsterdam Music Theatre

Performing "Parade"

Cross-training with Pilates in the NDT gym. “I’m very muscular, but oddly enough I have a lot of weaknesses because those big muscles take over and then the little ones don’t work,” Jacoby says. “I’m constantly trying to keep everything in balance.”

Post-performance with her colleagues. “After shows, I like to go out to eat and drink. But sometimes it’s just me alone in a hotel room putting ice bags on my legs and having a glass of wine.”