Interview with Lenna Schouten, dance teacher at NDT

The Talent Development & Education department is committed to organizing events and activities that focus on experiencing dance in all possible ways. The Uitblinkers! project offers its participants, young talents of dance between seven and twelve years of age, the opportunity to discover their own unique talents and to develop them, placing emphasis on creativity, imagination, corporeal awareness, or musicality.

During each season, the participants get together at NDT once a month on Saturdays for project mornings, for which dance workshops and in-person meetings with dancers and other members of the company are organized. The participants and their families also visit a NDT performance each season. Uitblinkers! offers young talents a special opportunity to further deepen their development. The project focuses on personalized attention and coaching.

Uitblinkers! teacher Lenna Schouten tells us in this short interview about her role in the project, and why it can have such a disarming effect on its talented participants. In 2011, Lenna graduated from the Dance Teacher course of Codarts, Rotterdam, and has since then been working in the field of dance as a dancer as well as a choreographer. Experimenting, freedom, and musicality are central tenets of her work. She danced in choreographies of Krisztina de Châtel, Soosan Gilson, Sassan Yagmai, Natasja Pire, Marijke Eliasberg, and others, and has been immersing herself in Anouk van Dijk’s Counter Technique and Tom Koch’s Alexander Technique. She works for various organizations, such as Nederlands Dans Theater, on a project basis.

1. What is the Uitblinkers! project, and what role do you play in it?

“The Uitblinkers! project offers children an opportunity to get to know NDT intensively and to develop their talents. The youngest children who participate are seven years old, and the oldest are twelve years old. Although these children are very different, they are all talented in dance, creativity, have an urge to move, and are interested in various facets of modern dance theatre. For one morning a month for three years, the children come to the NDT studios to dance with us there. I have been the teacher at these workshop mornings for several years now, and together with colleagues, I ensure that these children can develop themselves in various ways. This year, I have also developed the content of the workshops and have conducted experiments with the workshop teachers to discover how we could challenge the children to develop their uniqueness, self-confidence, creativity, and dance talent to the full.”

2. What’s a morning at Uitblinkers! like?

“Early in the morning, the team of teachers and educational assistants gets together. To catch up, go over the plans for the morning, prepare everything, and to warm-up. By then, the first group of children and their parents are already giddily waiting outside. We begin the morning at 9:15 by first having warming-up exercises together. We divide the group of around 50 children into teams that will take part in various workshops. We always have a dance workshop and an in-depth workshop. Permanent elements of the year include observing one of the company’s lessons, a parent-and-child workshop, visiting a performance, an introduction to other aspects of the theatre such as technique, costumes, stage sets, and lighting. The first-year students will take part in a physiotherapist’s workshop about dancers’ bodies, and each year, a dancer will come to talk with the group. At the end of the season, there is a presentation of the highlights of the year where the children will dance for their parents and show them what they have learned. A morning of Uitblinkers! ends around noon, after which the parents will pick the children up, who will be tired yet contented.”

It is wonderful to witness that children are often a bit hesitant yet curious when they start their first workshops in September, but in the course of the year, dare to show increasingly more of themselves and that they gain a broader outlook on modern theatre dance.

NDT 1 dancer Chuck Jones at Uitblinkers! Photo: Sacha Grootjans.
3. Is there a goal you are working toward during the three years of the Uitblinkers! project?

“It is our aim to inspire and challenge the children to develop themselves creatively, physically, and artistically. It is wonderful to witness that children are often a bit hesitant yet curious when they start their first workshops in September, but in the course of the year, dare to show increasingly more of themselves and that they gain a broader outlook on modern theatre dance. The goal we are working toward will be different for each child because there are many different levels of dance technique. For instance, while one child only takes part in their school’s dance classes, another may have multiple dance classes each week at a local school of dance. However, we can clearly see that the children gain self-confidence, have more stage presence, are more able to improvise and create, and will have a much broader view and understanding of dance as a stage art.
This has already resulted in many wonderful changes in the everyday lives of many children.”

4. What do you like most about this project? Or what do you like to do the most at the Uitblinkers!?

“For me, being able to teach this inquisitive group of children is priceless. To start their development together and to see the children grow is wonderful. Although getting together once a month does feel like “starting over”, we are working towards an objective, which I find very satisfying. It is great to see members of Uitblinkers! create and perform their own compositions that contain elements of NDT materials while their own uniqueness is also visible! Hearing a child who was first afraid to speak giving a whole substantive analysis about a piece of dance that we watched is fantastic. It is beautiful that this project offers these young talents such an enrichment.”

5. Is the Uitblinkers! project also suitable for my child?

“Do you enjoy dancing, moving, being creative, and dance theatre? Would you like to do something more or different in addition to the dancing classes at your dance school? Does your child shine in the dance workshops that are organized by NDT at regional schools? Does your child lack experience in dancing, but do you suspect that they enjoy it and have a talent for dance, and would you like to explore this further and give it some consideration? Come and give it a try! During three trial mornings, we organize workshops that are similar to the Uitblinkers! workshops. You try these out to see if you like them and if they suit you. We will observe as well, and after these mutual meetings will decide if the Uitblinkers! project is suitable for your child.”

Please click here for more information and to sign up for the trial mornings. 

It is beautiful that this project offers these young talents such an enrichment.