“Who are you?” I asked. Her reply was “In this life, I primarily go by Lieneke Mous.” At that moment, I knew this interview was going to be an interesting one; full of good advice, love and spirituality.
You know sometimes you come across people and don’t get to spend a lot of time with them; but you feel this bond, a deep connection with them for some unknown reason… that’s what I felt when I met Lieneke for the first time in Norman, Oklahoma. She is an amazing, passionate person and just being around her will lift your spirits a little higher. For a long time I had wanted to know more about her. I couldn’t keep up with her nomadic pursuits, so I decided to do an interview with her (my opportunity to ask her questions I can’t in a normal conversation!). And I feel it’s about time I shared it with the world…
Lieneke is a choreographer, dance teacher, and performer based out of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In her own words, she is also an aerial yogini, curator, columnist, partner, friend, sister, daughter, meditator, sun gazer, tree-hugger, cyclist, and life lover.
She is a passionate dancer! “The first time I was exposed to it was when I was four years old, I vaguely recall watching ballet on television, and then I knew I wanted to dance. I started dance training when I was 5 and I never quit.” says Lieneke.
Q. You mentioned that you love to travel. What will be your next destination?
Many and any because I love to travel and I also work internationally so that gets me to travel abroad. I’m returning to Brazil to teach the next Changing Lives Through Dance (CLTD) p
roject in the summer of 2014.
Q. How have you made traveling a part of your life?
I always knew I wanted to do something with dance and theater, and I was looking for my path for a long time until I realized I was walking it already.
In my sophomore year in college, I conducted my first non-profit education project – I taught theater to girls living in a refugee center in the Netherlands. I felt a strong pull toward the ones less privileged than I, and of course the (inter)cultural aspects were fascinating to me. People from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia… all together. Little girls, born and raised in a refugee center.
In my senior year I set up the first dance project in Aimorés, Minas Gerais – Brazil. And the rest is history.
In 2007, I moved to the United States to attend graduate school for dance at the University of Oklahoma and worked there for some time. After that, I traveled to Brazil and India to teach dance to youths for my CLTD education projects. I am grateful that I have been able to turn my hobby into my work.
Q. Tell us more about Changing Lives Through Dance (CLTD). How do you think this will bring about change in society?
Changing Lives Through Dance (CLTD) includes dance projects for underserved youths in developing nations, such as Brazil and India. Artistic expression proves over and over that people become happier because they have an outlet to express themselves. Through creative expressions they become more in touch with whom they are (or want to be). It is rewarding to me to see others becoming happy because of what I am offering. I see that my students gain self-esteem and confidence from dancing and, in turn, they develop hope for a better, happier future.
Q. Why did you pick Brazil and India as CLTD destinations?
I was 17 when I first traveled to Brazil for a family vacation. I instantly fell in love with the country, the people, and their culture. I got in touch with a family friend in Brazil, who welcomed my dance and theater project for the youth of his rural city of Aimorés in the state of Minas Gerais. There, youths have little to no opportunity for artistic expression. The first time I developed a project there was in 2006, I returned in 2012, which ignited Changing Lives Through Dance.
I had a dream to travel to India for many years. As I have grown older, I prefer traveling to places where I can contribute something to society
In 2012, discovered the Rescue Foundation through its Dutch partner organization Free A Girl and proposed my CLTD project. I then launched a fundraising campaign to meet the needs to travel to India and work with the girls and young women living in the shelter home.
Q. What next after the Brazil-India CLTD Project?
I am looking to further develop CLTD and start an official Changing Lives Through Dance foundation. I am launching a new fundraising campaign and am slowly, but surely establishing a board of directors and am expanding the teaching team. Of course we are open to receive donations 🙂 Additionally, I moved back to my home country the Netherlands and am currently living in Amsterdam. I work as a dance teacher, choreographer, and performer. Last summer I founded the Young Makers Platform, bringing together various performance disciplines in alternative locations for young, talented makers. The harsh economic situation is challenging especially for artists, so I am trying to stay inspired and continue to inspire others, so together we can create a happier world.
Q. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I attempt to remove separations of work, living, etc., so the question could also be “Where do you find inspiration?” Easily answered: inspiration can be found anywhere as long as you’re open to it. A story someone shares about their personal victory after struggle. A dance. Hand-holding. A song. The morning sun. Each morning. A painting. Dripping paint on canvas and seeing the art unfold. Sitting with someone whose language I don’t speak. Being. Pina Bausch. Living. Ash. Love.
Q. If you could say one thing to the world, what would it be?
I feel I’m bringing peace by finding peace within myself, by sending healing love to myself, by helping an animal cross the street, by carrying an older person’s bags… Living in the moment, for I’d be wasting time pondering over the past and contemplating the future. I try to eat healthy, raise my awareness, live from my center, and share love. And dance a cosmic dance.