The story of Annemarie Labinjo-van der Meulen

My biggest challenge was to find a new rhythm after stopping dancing

Annemarie Labinjo-van der Meulen danced with Scapino Ballet Rotterdam from 1997 to 2011 and has just completed her first year studying Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). She looks back on her first year.

I started dancing at the age of 15 in Groningen on the preparatory dance course. I then went to ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, after which I joined Introdans for 2 years. I then continued my passion for 15 years with Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, where I had a wonderful time.

What appeals to you so much about dance?
To me, dance means love, freedom and creativity. Dance is a linking element in society.

What were the highlights in your career?
One of my highlights was performing the role of Clara in Marco Goecke’s ‘Nutcracker’, where I danced among thousands of walnuts that were painted black!

How has the retraining process gone for you?
My transformation process from dancing to studying was very good, but at the same time confrontational (for a short while). I danced my last performance at my top, as I’d always hoped, with the feeling that I could have gone on longer. A fantastic feeling! I started my studies more or less straight away.

I gradually cut back on training by doing some ballet classes and Gyrotonic. The first day of my NLP study was very confrontational. The trainer talked about why people don’t make changes easily – the reason being that they were afraid it could also get worse. My thoughts drifted off: ‘I had a fantastic job, great colleagues and recognition, and I followed my heart, etc. So why did I stop actually?’ During the group discussion, I let my tears flow freely and shared my concerns with the group: ‘Who am I now? I’ve left the environment I loved so much and now everything’s new’. Although I knew I’d made a conscious decision to stop, it was still confrontational. I found out that – like many other people – I’d derived a great deal of my identity from my work; from being a dancer. And who am I now then? All that my trainer said was: ‘Maybe it will come still….’ And he was right. I went through a 24-hour identity crisis and then the feeling went away. I’m so much more than Annemarie the dancer. I’m an enthusiast, a go-getter, a mother, a partner, a storyteller, a student, a Gyrotonic instructor and a whole lot more. That was – and still is – a wonderful process. I cherish my dance memories, but at the same time I’m discovering so many new things about myself and others. With Paul Bronkhorst’s help I’d made a careful plan for my studies, which was a 3-year process, to see where my interests lay. That’s how I found out what I wanted to do. The guidance and preparation was so valuable in enabling me to feel like a fish in water in my new environment. It just feels right!

What are you doing at the moment?
Right now, I’ve been studying for exactly one year, with the aim of becoming a physical coach through the Gyrotonic Expansion System, Neuro Linguistic Programming and Profiling. I’m now doing the NLP Master Coach course and I’ve already got my NLP Practitioner and NLP Master Practitioner certificates. This year, I’ll also be doing the Truth and Lie Detection course and the Emotion Management and Behaviour course as a foundation for the Analytical Profiling I’ll be doing in 2014. All these courses are given by Rob Kamps. Paul pointed out NLP to me, and I went to look at various NLP courses. Although the material interested me, there was always a ‘but’ at the end of these open days. But in the case of Rob Kamps, this ‘but’ vanished and I knew that I wanted to study with him. The way he gives the training course is fun, personal and professional. He has 24 years’ experience in coaching, and he is also the profiler and owner of Bureau Personal Development in Zoetermeer. He’s a good all-round teacher. Besides these developments, I got my Gyrotonic level 2 certificate in the summer of 2012, and I’m going on to try and get Gyrokinesis level 1 and 2.

What has been your biggest challenge during this process?
My biggest challenge was to find a new rhythm after stopping dancing; a rhythm to keep my body moving and not stop suddenly and a rhythm for studying. How should I focus and get down to reading, learning and planning? That was a goal in itself. In the first months, I experienced this as a quest for a new balance, but after a while I’d got to grips with the structure. Plan and do! The discipline I’d had as a dancer came in very useful here.

Which other qualities you’d developed as a dancer do you find useful now?
For Gyrotonic, the qualities I use from the dance world are my knowledge of the body and my physical experiences. For NLP and coaching, I notice that my flexibility, creativity and focus are well used. They are qualities that apply well to coaching. Other useful tools are existing in the moment and visualisation.

What have you learnt from your retraining, and what advice do you have for dancers who are thinking about retraining?

For me it was really great to already know what I wanted to do after dancing. An important question from Paul was: ‘How do you want to end your dancing career?’ It was a question I hadn’t really thought about myself. I can still hear myself saying: ‘If I’m on stage, I’ll be happy’. Paul answered by saying: ‘It’s important to give some thought to this’. Thanks to those words, which stayed with me subconsciously, I made the decision to stop at a moment that had symbolic value to me. Ed Wubbe’s ’Kathleen’ came on the repertoire again; a piece I’d seen on television when I was 18, which was when I knew I wanted to dance with this company! Almost 20 years later, I could end my dancing career with this ballet. I’d come full circle.

What I can recommend to dancers who are thinking about retraining, besides this advice from Paul, is to do good preparatory work and take your time to visit lots of open days. Look and compare. Then it will become clear what you want and what you don’t want. It gave me peace of mind to already start looking while I was still dancing, as I didn’t have to make any decisions yet. I looked around me with an open mind, like a kid in a sweet shop, and discovered what was on offer for me personally.

Why do you think it’s important for dancers to get support during their retraining process?
What I needed (and still need) to develop myself further were (and are) time and money. Time in order to learn something of value to me, and money in order to pay for my studies, which will eventually enable me to give something back to society. My thanks to the Omscholingsregeling voor Dansers for this wonderful future!


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