Movelab Dance Centre prides itself on its ‘serious fun brainy-bodywork’ and offers an alternative approach to dance lessons for children. Marta met with founder Monica Antezana to find out more.

A Passion for Teaching and Dance

Founded in September 2016, Movelab Dance Centre in Amsterdam offers an extraordinary approach to dance classes for children. Owned, directed, and taught by Monica Antezana, everything about Movelab reflects her passionate personality and intellectual attitude to the essential quality of movement as a learning tool. Throughout her life, Monica has combined her love for dance and passion for education to pursue an impressive academic career, the fruits of which she now brings to her pupils at Movelab.  

“As a child I always wanted to be a teacher,” she explains. “Later on, I discovered my love for dance, but I wanted to see dance from all its perspectives and that’s how I came to understand I wanted to become a dance teacher.”

Monica was born in Bolivia, but spent the first school years in the States. When she moved back to her country, she studied educational dance in an art school and received a diploma in modern dance. Later, she decided to study Educational Science. “The dream to become a dance teacher was still in my head and I reckoned I needed to secure a strong theoretical background to make it come true.” She got her first bachelor in pedagogics and, since 1995, has been teaching creative dance.

“My next step from there was to explore something completely artistic,” she says. “I came to the Netherlands to study at the Rotterdam Dance Academy, where I received a bachelor in choreography. Soon after graduating, I moved to Hamburg, where I completed a master in performance studies.”

After working several years as a choreographer and a performer in Germany, Monica and her family relocated to Dubai, where in 2012 she opened the first Movelab: “I felt it was time to put it all together – the knowledge and experience I had as a choreographer, a dancer, a teacher, a scientist, and as a child – and that’s how Movelab was born.” 

I believe we all have the right to enjoy movement, and the basis of dance is pure movement.

Flexible, Mobile, Accessible

In 2016, Monica and her family moved back to the Netherlands and a few months later she started the first classes in Watersgraafsmeer, Amsterdam East, in a space on the grounds of the Daltonschool De Meer. “When setting up the new Movelab in Amsterdam,” Monica recalls, “I chose not to have a fixed location for my school. I wanted to be able to bring my classes to schools, daycares, and BSOs, so I could teach the children in an environment where they wouldn’t feel intimidated. This way, they already know their friends and the learning environment, and it’s easier for them to open up to a new teacher and learning experience.”

Currently, she teaches per quarter in sync with the academic school, and is planning to expand Movelab beyond East Amsterdam to get closer to the local communities. “I’m always open to creating tailored classes for groups of at least six children and bringing them to a location convenient for my students and the parents involved,” she says.  

Move to Learn, Learn to Move

“From the very beginning,” explains Monica, “children learn about the world by moving in it. They are so busy with getting mobile to participate in life; just think how babies want to push their heads up so they can look at the world. First they learn about their body, then they learn to use their body to learn about the world, and soon they realise they can change the world by moving in it.”

Movelab is not a typical dance school as it doesn’t follow the idea of teaching a specific technique and set of steps the children must memorize and learn to perform. The dance discipline Monica teaches is best described as ‘Creative Dance’, a name which reflects two of the main concepts driving Monica’s vision: discipline and freedom. “I’m super structured, and I’m a complete nerd,” she confesses with a bright smile. “I always study, learn, test all the exercises, but I’m very flexible with them. I believe it’s crucial to be free within strict guidelines, because learning new things without the comfort of a set framework can be quite scary for a child.”

The Democracy of the Body

“I believe we all have the right to enjoy movement, and the basis of dance is pure movement – which is not necessarily how society, history, and culture define what dance is and who is a  dancer,” Monica explains. “This democracy concerns body-type: you don’t have to fit the parameters of a prima ballerina to be able to dance; it concerns gender: boys are many times not allowed to dance and they are fabulous movers; it concerns personality: children who are shy and are not interested in performing on a stage can still be fantastic dancers and should be able to fully explore this side of themselves.”

“Movelab offers all children the place and time to enjoy their body shape and their gender and whether they are more extrovert or introvert,” Monica continues. “It is about how you experience the process of dancing. Everybody gets the same set of exercises and everyone does them in their own unique way. If, for example, the exercise is to write your name with your head, I’m not telling you how you should do it, and your name looks different than mine anyway, so you do it your way – you do it big, you do it fast, you do it while you talk, you do it in complete silence, or you do it with music – and without even thinking about it you already made a little dance with your head.”

To find out more about Movelab, contact Monica via email or visit the Movelab Dance Centre’s website

photo credits: Movelab
Marta Parlatore

Marta Parlatore is a filmmaker, freelance writer, and aspiring novelist who spends most of her days hustling time to write between the challenges of being a Toddler Mama and Household CEO. She's the founder of The Story Desk, a very independent screenwriting collective, and she loves to tell embarrassing stories about motherhood on her personal blog Baby Blues & Rock'N'Roll. Find her also on Facebook and Instagram.