We’ve moved!

photos: Sjoerd Derine

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Wednesday 1 November was an especially festive day for us, because that was the date – also World Ballet Day! – that we moved into our beautiful new ‘home’ at Nicolaas Tetterodestraat, in Amsterdam Overamstel. So now all our pupils and students have at last come together in the same building; a building with seven fantastic big studios, one of which can also serve as a theatre. “Our new home”, says artistic director Ernst Meisner, “will become a place where ballet is celebrated in every possible way and where everyone is welcome. And it will be a place where we look to the future, try things out, dare to make mistakes and explore what’s needed to let ballet and ballet education flourish even more in the Netherlands and to offer even more people the opportunity to come into contact with ballet.”

The move to Nicolaas Tetterodestraat 13 in Amsterdam (metro station Overamstel) marks the end of a long search for a suitable new location for the Dutch National Ballet Academy. Since 2006, numerous possible existing locations and new-build plans had been looked at, but they had bitten the dust one by one, for various reasons. Now, however, there is a brand-new building at last, for which the programme of requirements we submitted formed the starting point for the firm of architects PPHP Mollink Soeters. Ernst Meisner says, “It’s been an exciting, sometimes difficult and challenging, but always positive and fantastic journey with architects, designers, builders and many other colleagues, who were determined to make it work this time. And now we’ve done it: we have a wonderful new school building with seven fantastic dance studios, classrooms for regular primary education, a fitness room, a canteen, rest rooms and offices, etc.”

Daily inspiration
“It was our fervent wish”, says Meisner, “ to bring together all the Dutch National Ballet Academy pupils, students, teachers, pianists and staff under one roof. The school needed a place where we could all be together and where young and old could be inspired by one another on a daily basis. In addition, this new building will be somewhere for us to discuss and question the future of ballet and ballet education. A place where we can explore what’s needed to take the next steps for our school, and which provides scope for open discussions, without pretending that we always know the answers. And a place where young and old are welcome: newcomers, students, professionals and those who are simply curious.”

Simon Kortmann, student AD 2:
‘Now we can let rip in our variations’

“I’ve been training at the Dutch National Ballet Academy for nine years now, and I think it’s wonderful that the whole school is now housed at one location for the first time. Especially for the youngest pupils, it’s really special. I remember only too well that when you’re in the first classes, the older students are your idols. So it’s really great and inspiring that now they’ll be able to see them at work every day. Another thing I really like about this new building is that there are so many big windows – and so much space around the building – which lets a lot of sunlight in. And the studios are fantastic, especially the big theatre studio, which is similar in dimensions to the biggest studio at Dutch National Ballet. As older students, it gives us the space to really let rip in our grand allegro and all our repertoire variations. The building is very spacious in itself, with its own gym and a big canteen. And that’s wonderful, also because the number of students has risen a lot in recent years, so we’d actually grown out of the old location.”

Helena Schotsman, student AD 1:
‘It feels much more like one school now’

“I did have to get used the new building at first. I missed having colour on the concrete walls, but now, after a couple of weeks, I realise it’s fine just as it is. And everything’s so much bigger and roomier: the studios – so that now you’ve got much more space for grand allegro – but also the changing rooms for the different age groups, the canteen and even the toilets. I haven’t used the fitness room yet, but I do like the fact that it’s there. And I also think it’s great that we’re now all in one building of our own. I only started at the Dutch National Ballet Academy in NBA 5, after training for a year at the Tanzgymnasium in Essen, so I’ve never been in the same building as the youngest pupils before. It’s really nice that you can watch them at work. It feels much more like one school now. In the beginning, I thought it was a shame we weren’t in the centre of Amsterdam any more, but at the same time it’s nice that our new location is quieter and not so busy. The fact that we’ve now got our own building (without any other faculties – ed.) makes it feel more like a ballet academy than before, and I think that will improve the school as well.”

Teacher Simona Ferrazza:
‘Everyone’s already moving bigger’

“It’s definitely time to celebrate!”, exclaims teacher Simona Ferrazza enthusiastically. “We talked for so long about a new building, and so many members of staff have fought for it for years. As a teacher, you don’t get to hear everything by a long way, and then – suddenly we’re here – and it’s almost surreal. This new building changes everything in my view. First of all, I think it’s a beautiful building. I love the industrial character, while the premises also have a classical touch, of course, due to the ballet studios, the mirrors and the pianos. I think the designers have brought those two elements together really well. In addition, the unity that’s been created – all being together in one building – will make our school even stronger. Just the daily communication between students, teachers and office staff, in itself, is so much easier now. It’s good for the youngest pupils to watch the older students at work, although I’ve been surprised over the past weeks to see that it’s mainly the latter who’ve been peeping in at the little ones. It reminds me of vertical learning, where there are mixed classes of different age groups. Although that’s not possible in ballet education, now at least they’re able to learn a lot from one another. I’ve also noticed – when I ask my pupils how they’re doing – how pleased everyone is with the bigger studios. You can see it already: the pupils and students are moving better and bigger, and as teachers we can now teach them the correct spacing straight away for variations and repertoire. Of course, we managed that at the old locations as well, and I’ll always cherish my time at Agamemnonstraat (former location for NBA 1 – 4 – ed.), but at the same time I’m really happy that I can also experience this new situation. Another great thing is that we’ve got much more space to invite parents to come and watch classes, rehearsals and small-scale performances. And we’re sharing our new building with Balletstudio Marieke van der Heijden (the amateur ballet school that will continue as Studio NBA as of January 2024 – red.), so that now her pupils can also see and experience what things are like here. Hopefully, that will encourage even more children to take up professional ballet training.”

Teacher Grigori Tchitcherine:
‘The Dutch National Ballet Academy really deserves this building’

“We’re all incredibly happy with this new building. We’ve waited for it a long time. For years, under different directors, plans have kept being made and then biting the dust, but now we have two directors (Ernst Meisner and René Vlemmix – ed.) who’ve really got down to it during their five years at the helm and have achieved this fantastic result. Of course, we’re still settling into the new premises, but it already feels so great to be all together at one location. That’s important to the pupils and students. It’s nice to see how they greet one another now, and for the youngest pupils it’s really good for them to see what their daily, sometimes difficult efforts at the ballet barre will eventually lead to. But also for us as teachers, working together in the same building is such progress. As we used to be at two locations, there were some teachers I didn’t see for weeks on end. Whereas for the continuity of dance education and for the line to be followed in it, it’s extremely important that we can watch each other’s classes – which now happens almost automatically due to all the windows in the new building – and that we can confer with each other on a daily basis. There may be people who are concerned that our pupils are now in a ‘ballet bubble’ all day long, but from NBA 3 to 7 they have their regular education elsewhere, at a normal secondary school, so they have plenty of contact with the outside world. And yes, when they’re here they are indeed in a bubble, but it’s a good, productive bubble, which gives them the opportunity to concentrate and focus to the full. And finally, the Dutch National Ballet Academy really deserves this building! Nearly all the leading ballet academies in Europe have wonderful premises and facilities, and now at last we can measure up to those schools, not just regarding training, but in that respect as well.”

The official opening of our new premises at Nicolaas Tetterodestraat will take place at a later date. You’ll be informed about the opening in one of our upcoming newsletters.

Studiozaal NBA

Simon Kortmann

Helena Schotsman

Simona Ferrazza

Grigori Tchitcherine

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