Born in Mortsel, Antwerp, Irma Swijnen received her first ballet lessons from Jeanne Brabants at the Kolvenierstraat in Antwerp.
After her training at the Stedelijk Instituut fort Ballet, she joined Jeanne Brabants’ project ‘Studio Ballet’, took extra pedagogical courses at the Vaganova Institute in St. Petersburg and followed also several courses of classical dance pedagogy with the renowned ballet teacher Dr.Martin Puttke, director of the Berlin State Ballet School.
In 1975 she formed ‘Dansstudio Arabesque’ where she remained as artistic director until 2014.
In 1985 Irma was co-founder of the Flemish Organisation for Dance Teachers and a year later became their chairwoman.
During years she built an impressive career:
- In 1988, third prize for choreography at Bethune, France
- 1st edition of the ‘International Dance Stage’ in Antwerp
- Undertook the future organisation of ‘ DE International Dance Stage’
- Organisation of annual performances in support of ‘Aids Memorial Day’ at different locations in Antwerp, o.a at the Sint Carolus Borromeus Church
- Guest choreographer at the Vienna State Ballet School with the choreography ‘Dance-e-Motions’, mounting it and polishing it in the studio with the students.This performance was brought three times at the Vienna State Opera
- Guest choreographer at the Palucca Dance School, Dresden with the choreography ‘Dance-e-Motions’
- Art Laureate , Antwerp 2000
- Guest choreographer and teacher for the 13th and 14th ‘ International Seminary of Dance’ in Brazil
- Member of the jury for the ‘International Dance Competition’ in Brazil in 2003 & 2004
- Organised a performance in AMUZ Theatre during the 23rd International Dance Stage, Antwerp in 2006. This was for the Junior Dance Company project, a platform to give young starting dancers the chance to work with well-known choreographers, in order to broaden their network and thus improve their chances in the work market
- Creation of the performance ‘Waterwork’ ( 2007) in collaboration with Ann Van den Broek and Niek Kortekaas during which 450 dancers took part
- As from January 2008, Irma initiated a collaboration with P.A.R.T.S, FONTYS, HID, CODARTS and the students of Dansstudio Arabesque for performances created by choreographers from these institutes to expand their networks
- Organisation of workshops lead by Hans Joachim Tappendorff ( classical ballet) and Dr. Martin Puttke ( lesson methodology for teachers)
- In 2016 Irma became chairwoman of Friends of the Ballet School.VZW
Sinds 2019 Irma became co-founder with Alain Honorez, of Junior Ballet Antwerp, giving freely of her year- long experience and knowledge.
Irma Swijnen : Although I won’t deny I saw myself as a soloist, there is only place in the ranks for the best talent. That is why chose to devote myself to teaching – to stand next to the stage rather than on it. It has given me happiness & more satisfaction than I ever could have known as a dancer.