Femke trained at the National Ballet Academy of Amsterdam (NBA). Following a year as an apprentice with Introdans in 2000, she immediately took up a contract with this company and continued to dance with Introdans for eleven years.
In what phase of the retraining process are you at the moment?
I’m right in the middle of it!
After studying communication management for a year (2011/2012), I found that this course of study didn’t suit me. So I made the switch to training as a primary school teacher. It is a two-year part-time course, and I’ve just completed the first year. I’m halfway through already and I can’t wait till I’ve graduated and can stand in front of a class.
What really appeals to you about dancing?
I just feel at home on stage. The atmosphere in the studio and on stage is so special, and that gives me lots of energy. I feel free when I dance, and I actually dare to do far more on stage than in daily life. I love to move, and it’s fantastic to be able to do that to beautiful music.
Besides that, there is a really strong bond between the dancers, and your colleagues are actually a sort of second family. I still miss that every day. Although I’m making new friends now, the mutual bond that dancers build up is different. As most dancers come from abroad, you also spend a lot of your free time together, which reinforces the idea that your colleagues are a sort of family.
What were the highlights of your career?
In my eleventh year with Introdans, I had so many experiences that it’s difficult to choose a highlight.
But one high point was when we performed for King Willem Alexander (then Prince Willem Alexander). It was for his 40th birthday, and we danced for a select audience on a stage in the garden of Paleis het Loo. It was a performance I’ll always remember!
How has the retraining process gone for you?
When I’d just decided to stop dancing, I had several talks with Paul Bronkhorst. They helped me to find out what I wanted to study. Although I did eventually change course, I’ve now found my place.
What was your greatest challenge during this process?
My greatest challenge was to become a student again. You go from a very physical profession to a world full of books and studying. In other words, I had to learn to find my way around reading books, writing essays and cramming for exams.
Another aspect was that as a dancer I aimed for perfection – both in the studio and on stage. In my studies, I had to learn that a pass mark is also fine and that it wasn’t necessary to get top marks for everything, although that was what I had expected of myself as a dancer. I’m still trying to get used to the idea that not everything has to be perfect. Although that attitude is very good too, as it means I get good marks.
What are you doing at the moment, and how did you get to this point?
I studied communication management for one year, but I found out that it didn’t suit me. However, I did want to complete the year well (dancers’ mentality), so I got my first-year certificate. When I found out that it was not the course for me, the Omscholingsregeling supported me. I had several talks with Paul in order to find out what course would suit me better. He helped me to find out where I saw myself ending up in a few years’ time.
So now I’m studying teachers’ training at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. I’ve completed the first year and have never been so sure of my choice. I’m really suited to being a teacher, I’ve found a second career, and I can’t wait to stand in front of a class.
Which other qualities you developed as a dancer are useful to you now?
Perseverance and discipline.
My perseverance and discipline have enabled me to take a part-time course. Because the course is given over two years instead of four, you get a huge amount of information, exams and assignments in a short space of time. That’s very demanding, and it’s a difficult course. But it’s not in my nature to give up or even to take it easy for a while. Now I’ve finished the first year, I can see where these qualities have brought me. I’m still waiting for two marks, but I’ve already got all my other points for the first year.
What have you learnt from your retraining, and what advice would you like to give dancers who are ready to retrain?
It’s a big step deciding to stop something you’ve dreamed of ever since you were little. You’re ending a period that you’ve worked on with great love and passion. But I’ve learnt that it’s definitely possible to start a second career that you can put just as much passion into as dance. You may have to search for a while, but it’s out there for sure!
My advice to dancers is:
Start thinking about a career after dancing well in advance. Then you can take your time to look around and find out what interests you and which courses there are in that field. And you can then prepare for a new life and have something to look forward to when you’ve made the decision to stop dancing. For me, it was really great to be able to look forward to a course that I wanted to make a start on. It made a lot easier for me to make the decision to take the next step and start a new chapter. You do leave behind a big part of your life when you stop, and it’s nice to have something new to look forward to.
Why do you think it’s important for dancers to receive support during the retraining process?
I don’t know whether I’d have dared take the step two years ago if I hadn’t had support from the Omscholingsregeling. Physically, I could probably have danced for a bit longer and I was right at the top of my career. But I really wanted to take the decision to stop myself, rather than having to stop because of an injury, for example. The Omscholingsregeling’s support enabled me to start on a new chapter. You’re not left on your own.
I’ve received extremely good guidance, both before and during my studies. You get the chance to begin a new chapter and you don’t have to worry about the costs and your income. That enables you to focus completely on your studies and your new future.