Jamy Schinkelshoek

< >

1988 Voorburg (the Netherlands)

Royal Conservatoire, The Hague

Compagnie Europa Danse, Cannes; Introdans (since August 2007)

Studiebeurs Dansersfonds '79 (2005); Aanmoedigingsprijs Dansersfonds '79 (2008)

“I think that I was born to dance.” Jamy Schinkelshoek expresses the thought cautiously but from the very first moment it’s clear that dance is her great love and passion.

Five sisters

Jamy is the oldest of five sisters and also forms a duo with her identical twin sister Eline. “So on the outside there’s no difference between us... in a way. But I dance and she doesn’t and so now we resemble each other less. I’m taller, for instance.” Jamy bursts out laughing as she remembers an incident from her schooldays at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. “During my time there the training programme was pretty Russian-influenced in terms of order and discipline. We had a performance and Eline was there with my parents. My ballet mistress flipped out. What the hell did she think she was doing in the audience? She was supposed to be getting ready to go on stage. Obviously not everyone could tell the difference between her and me.”

Trial ballet lesson

Jamy was eight when her mother thought that a trial ballet lesson might be a nice thing for her twins. The responses from the two girls couldn’t have been more different. “I thought it was fantastic but Eline didn’t like it at all. And that gave me doubts as well. Maybe I was making a mistake? Luckily my mother was resolute. She had seen something come alive in me when I started dancing. And so the decision was taken quickly. I started learning ballet, Eline didn’t.”

Audition at the Royal Conservatoire

Young Jamy never looked back. During the lessons she imitated the teacher as well as she could. “I didn’t know any better, so I didn’t realise then that I might be special or very good.” But less than a year later the teacher suggested that Jamy should do an audition at the Royal Conservatoire. “All the preliminary rounds had already taken place and only the final round was still open. Hundreds of girls had already dropped out and I have no idea how my ballet teacher Marcella managed to get me into that audition. In the final round.” Jamy travelled to The Hague, was assigned her number (13, no less) and happily began the first audition in her life. “I had really only just started dancing and so when they called me to the barre and asked me do show a cambré, I had to ask what that was. OK, bend over backwards. Luckily I could do that, I’m naturally very flexible. But it was exactly this issue that I started to feel unsure about during the audition. There was someone who lifted up your leg as high as possible – to the front, to the side and behind your body. We had to say if it hurt. He touched my forehead with my foot and I saw a member of the jury write something down so when he lifted up my leg to the back I very quickly called out ‘I can’t go any further’. Luckily he ignored that and for a moment he showed the jury how flexible I was to the back.”

Ballet nerd

Jamy was accepted and then in the following years received her education during the tough ballet training. “The rules are really strict. Everything has to be very neat, tidy and flawless. Our ballet outfit was known as a uniform, for instance. A lot of people might object to this kind of thing, but I love this discipline.“ Jamy even calls herself a ‘ballet nerd’. “I liked hard work and pushing myself. If I wasn’t hot and sweaty after a lesson and my muscles were aching, then I felt I hadn’t done enough.”

Iron discipline

This iron discipline didn’t change when she began working as a professional dancer. “I’m just the same at Introdans. I really stick to the rules, and for me pushing myself to extremes is still one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. At Introdans Jamy is regarded as the ‘leader of the pack’. She has now been dancing with the Ensemble for Youth for seven years and she enjoys working together with the repetiteur. At the moment, for instance, she is helping a lot of interns to learn all the new dance routines. “I’m a bit of a teacher, yes,” admits Jamy open-heartedly. “I’ve got the kind of brain that remembers steps. I like to work and I enjoy helping my colleagues. Moreover it also helps to shape the kind of group we are. In the end that’s what you see on stage, too – a unit.”

On the other hand Jamy, just like every dancer, is not someone who blends into the background. “It’s all part of the dancer’s DNA. The perfectionism, the hard work, the discipline. The reward is the applause from the audience at the end. Being allowed to perform, enjoying the trust of the dance community in your ability.” As regards this latter item, Jamy is already in a fine position. During her training period she received a scholarship for promising talent and during her first season at Introdans the Incentive Prize from Dancers’ Fund ’79.

Rehearsal in Cannes

Those who knew Jamy during her dance education in The Hague might be surprised that she ultimately chose modern ballet. “I had a very classical training and you can see it all in my body. I’ve seldom felt so frustrated as during a rehearsal in Cannes. I was dancing with Compagnie Europe Danse and the repertoire there was so different to the things I was used to. I got really stuck – while it was just a week before the premiere that I heard I was going to dance at all. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the words 'no, no, no, no, no' so much in just a few days. After I had a minor breakdown the repetiteur came up to me to explain that she could see me developing, and that was why she was pushing me so hard.” Jamy’s eyes shine as she recalls the story. “I just started working at it even harder and now I have both modern and classical technique completely integrated into my body. I can just do it now.”

This proved to be a crucial turning point, and it brought Jamy right to the door of Introdans. “At that time Introdans was pretty desperate for female dancers because they had had a number of injuries. On the recommendation of that same repetiteur, Roel (the artistic director of Introdans, ed.) asked me to travel from Cannes to perform with the company. He called me one evening and the next day I set off. I knew the piece but I was used to having different dancers around me, to a different partner. I literally got to know these people on the stage. I remember that this moment was the first time that I really felt like a professional. I was no longer a student of dance, I was a dancer.”
The rest is history, because shortly after Jamy's ‘rescue mission’ she was offered a contract at Introdans.