RP Pro Anneke De Jong is a company artist with Magnum Opus in Madison, Wisconsin. She is from Stillwater, Minnesota and her training has included prestigious intensives throughout the country and abroad.
Anneke’s early inspiration came from two teachers, one of whom she still works with occasionally. The other fought a 12-year battle with breast cancer, while teaching and running a studio. “She taught me so much including fortitude and grace under pressure,” Anneke says. “Her motto was ‘Be light.’ I learned so much about ballet, plus so many life lessons, inside that small studio, in a repurposed 130-year-old church that became a second home and family.”
As a teen, Anneke drew further inspiration from Gelsey Kirkland, whose summer intensive she attended for two years. “Her artistry as a teacher and mentor helped me find and define my heart, my passion, and my expression,” Anneke says. “And she always had so much energy in class that it was contagious and made you work harder. She was so invested in each of us and always pushing us to be our best.”
Her experience studying with Dutch National Ballet and English National Ballet led to Anneke’s hope to perform in Europe someday. She was inspired by how dancers approached their work and the artistic focus she perceived in both European companies, and a London performance she attended of Swan Lake by English National Ballet “was the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen,” she says. “The principals were beautiful, of course, but it was the corps that I found breathtaking and amazing, the way they worked as one – they moved like a dream.”
Anneke recognizes both a dream and a challenge in her hope to dance in Europe. “By nature, I like to be safe, to stay close to home around the things I know,” she says. “But since I was young, I have pushed myself, including going away to intensives starting at age 13. I remember being terrified but always glad that I had gone.” Experiencing the benefits of stepping outside her own comfort zone may contribute to her guidance to young dancers. “Don’t be scared to reach out to people,” she says. “Dancers sometimes forget this, but it’s OK to ask questions, to not be silent.”
Anneke is one of six founding dancers of Magnum Opus, founded in 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin by dancer and artistic director Abigail Henninger. The company’s name means “great work,” and its philosophy is rooted in Christian ideals. The repertoire is not religion-based; instead, its dancers hope to “create beautiful works with good intention, to share with the community,” Anneke explains. She believes that ballet is accessible to anyone, even those without an arts orientation. “If you do it right, everyone should be able to feel something from the performance.” Anneke and the other founding artists of Magnum Opus have invested substantial time into the company’s development, including behind-the-scenes contributions as well as rehearsing and performing.
“My first love is Vaganova, along with Bournonville,” Anneke says, and most of her training has been Russian-based although her performance experience has been stylistically eclectic. “I have also studied a lot of character dancing, mostly Ukrainian, which I adore, and now I always have so much fun teaching.” In Magnum Opus, she enjoys the varied classical and contemporary repertoire and Henninger’s Balanchine-based style as well as her focus on sharing artistic beauty with others.
In the wings
Besides the joy of “coming to life on stage,” Anneke loves the moments before performing. “It is that time right before you go on, when you are in the wings,” she says. “Everyone is focused on the performance that is happening, and dancers who are preparing to go on are in their own little bubbles. The audience is watching and ready to be brought into the story. Time just seems to stop, and it is so peaceful. You can almost feel the history and life of the theater, of all the performers in the past, experiencing the same moment and sharing this love of the art form.”
Anneke’s Russian Pointes
Anneke has worn Russian Pointe since her second year on pointe. After trying a couple of other models, she settled on Sapfir during a fitting with RP in Chicago. “It fits my foot really well because I have long toes and a disappearing heel,” she says. She has narrow feet with wide metatarsal joints, so that she needs some taper in her toe box. “With most shoes I put on, my toes fall out,” she explains. She appreciated the expertise of the RP fitters, who creatively balanced size and width choices to find her perfect fit. She uses a Flexible Soft shank, which fits the shape of her arch and meets her support needs. “I like the natural material of Russian Pointes, which molds to and works with your feet. I love how the shoes break down naturally, and how they last longer than others,” Anneke says. She also carries an RP dance bag and also enjoys wearing RP’s fleece booties and “very soft” tights.
“My parents have always supported me 100%,” Anneke says. The cost of intensives was never easy, but creative solutions made it possible. To help with Anneke’s tuition, her mother traveled with her to New York to work as a costumer for Gelsey Kirkland Academy, and she also learned to fit pointe shoes at the local dance store back home. “She loves to help dancers with Russian Pointe!” Anneke says.
About Anneke De Jong
Anneke De Jong is a company artist with Magnum Opus in Madison, Wisconsin. She has previously performed as a demi-soloist with Metropolitan Ballet in Minneapolis, with Texas Ballet Theater in Fort Worth, and as a company apprentice with St. Paul Ballet and Continental Ballet in Bloomington, Minnesota. She began her training at St. Croix Ballet and St. Paul Conservatory in Stillwater and St. Paul, Minnesota. Her summer intensives have included Bolshoi Ballet Academy, English National Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, and Kirov Academy of Ballet, and she studied for two years in the professional training program of Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet.