IN CONVERSATION WITH ALEJANDRO ZWARTENDIJK
A professional ballet dancer stumbled into the business of TikTok all of a sudden. How does he balance it all out? He will tell you himself.
I am ALEJANDRO ZWARTENDIJK, 20 years old and living in Amsterdam. I have been dancing ballet for fourteen years, four of which as a professional ballet dancer with HET NATIONALE BALLET in Amsterdam. In April 2021 I started creating content on social media, especially on TikTok, which has only been growing ever since. I consider both to be full-time jobs.
Ballet has been a huge part of my life for a very long time. I have gotten used to how it works: long days in the studio, late nights on stage, injuries, criticism — the list goes on. There are lots of stories about how hard the ballet world is and, well, they are true.
The applause after a performance is an incredible feeling, I will never be able to explain. When that disappeared with covid happening, there was something missing. During the first lockdown, I started freaking out a bit. What else was out there, career-wise, other than ballet? I couldn’t figure it out. When life started getting back to ‘normal’, those thoughts disappeared.
Then the second lockdown happened, and TikTok came into the picture. Out of boredom, at home, I started making little modern family-inspired skits about relatable everyday situations.
People seemed to like it. My following started growing quickly, which was a bit of a shock. I started to realize people like my personality and the content I made. Accumulating a big following so suddenly drove me to post more content, more frequently. And let me tell you, I loved it!
I have always been a very creative person, but until April 2021 I have only been able to showcase a tiny bit of that: ballet. When I started my TikTok page, I realized that I found a platform where I could evenly show all those bits and pieces of my creativity. I continued making skits, I introduced ballet to my platform, my love for photography, cooking, interior design, travels — there is no limit.
It did not stop with just making content, brands wanted to collaborate. I started earning money with the platform and I got a manager. It all became very serious in very little time, all while still being a full-time ballet dancer.
I combine the two by following my ballet schedule as planned; class, rehearsals, stage calls, shows. Social media is planned around that schedule; during breaks, my free time when I get home, days off, and on vacations. You’re probably thinking: does he have any free time at all? Well, there was a point where I didn’t.
Making content was fun in the beginning because I was in lockdown and theaters were closed. But once it all opened again my ballet schedule got busier, which meant less time for content. So I would get home, think of a subject for a video, develop it, script it, film it, edit it, and then post it. It’s a lot of work and I can easily spend hours on one single video. That is why I had to force myself to rest and take time off from everything and enjoy quality time with my friends and family to keep my sanity.
My social media career was going great but when 2022 started, it all went into another dimension. I started working with my dream brands, got invited abroad, and got verified on TikTok. It was a dream come true, but all of it also implied spending more time and dedication to the platform.
But how long will I be able to combine my ballet career and being a content creator? For now, I will try doing things the same way as last year. Go to ballet and work on social media in my free time. Should it become impossible to combine, I will have to make a tough decision. When this will be or what I will do? That question remains unanswered for now.
Photography DANIEL SARS