LisbonInsideOut: Zoey, a Dutch Dancer

Zoey Van Mierlo

What is LisbonInsideOut?

LisbonInsideOut is a new interview series that I’ve created to learn why foreign people, that live or have lived in Lisbon, chose this city and what they love about it.

This week I’m introducing you to Zoey Van Mierlo, a Dutch dancer and co-creator of a performance group called Área-Cinzenta. Zoey first fell in love with Lisbon when she did an internship abroad on her 4th year of college. She instantly felt like the city could be her home and when she was back in Holland, she couldn’t stop thinking about coming back. And so one day she decided to sell all her stuff and head back to the Portuguese capital. It’s been almost 2 years and she continues to be amazed by this wonderful city, just as I do.


Who is Zoey?

It’s funny how one night out can introduce so many different people to your life, that’s how I met Nick, and surprisingly enough how I met Zoey’s mom. On a digital nomads meetup I came across Zoey’s mom (who is a very talented photographer btw) and briefly told her about my project. She quickly suggested her daughter, Zoey. When I heard she was a dancer, I had no doubt that I wanted to meet her. After all, that was my dream once.

So we exchanged details and I emailed Zoey right away to arrange a meeting. We had a drink at the kiosk in front of Convento do Carmo and she told me all about her story. I already knew the answers to my questions, but there is something different about seeing people’s reactions face to face. I could tell by the way Zoey spoke how passionate she was about Lisbon and about her dancing.

She knows Portugal doesn’t have the best opportunities in terms of dancing, but she’s determined to make something different and that’s why she decided to create her own project, together with her roommates, Área-Cinzenta, a performance group where she’s completely free to explore new ideas.

zoey van mierlo

What made you move to Lisbon?

In my 4th year of college at the Dance Academy I needed to do an internship and one of the options was to go abroad. Since I’ve always liked to travel and go abroad I chose this option, instead of staying in Holland and finding something there. I felt deep down that I needed to be in a different country for a long time and I had options of cities to choose from, so I chose Lisbon. Mostly because of the good weather 😉

I was never in Portugal before, so I had no idea what to expect, but I can still remember the feeling I had the first day I walked in the streets of Lisbon and how I felt at home right away. I still have that exact feeling now when I walk through my beautiful city.

After my internship I went back home because I needed to graduate, and after that I moved back to my hometown The Hague in Holland to work in restaurants and bars.

But every day I woke up and the feeling of missing Lisbon, and being there, became stronger and stronger every day. It was then that I decided to go for it. I sold all my stuff, worked to save a bit and booked a one-way ticket back home, back to Lisbon!

It’s in this city that I feel like home, where I feel I can be the best of me and it also brings out the best in me. The people around me, the people you meet on the streets and the whole atmosphere in this city is magical.

lisbon viewpoint

How long have you been here?   

So once for 6 months 4 years ago and I came back in October 2015, in total now 2 years.

What do you do/what is your profession? 

I studied to be a Dancer and that is still the dream and goal for me, but here in Portugal it’s difficult.

I’m busy with 2 friends of mine, who are also dancers, to built up an association in Performing Arts, called Área-Cinzenta. This will be a company and organisation where we dance and choreograph ourselves and work with other arts disciplines to create performances.

Right now this is still a work in progress and we’re not able to make money from this yet.

Since 2 months I’ve been working for a really cool, young, upcoming company called Indie Campers, this company rents amazing camper vans to tourists and I work in the Commercial Team.

Before that I worked for a Dutch bank and before that in a club and in restaurants.

dancing in lisbon

What is your favorite place in the city and why?

To be honest, this changes from time to time because I keep discovering new places. But the place that I enjoyed from the first day I moved here, and keep coming back regularly, is Adamastor.

These last weeks I’ve been going a lot to Jardim do Torel, this place is not yet discovered by tourists and you can really go there and clear your mind, it’s silent with a beautiful view, of course 😉

The places that I love the most here are the Miradouros. Just the other day I discovered one with a friend. The openness is an amazing feeling.

jardim do torel

If you could take something from Lisbon home, what would it be?

Lisbon is my home 🙂

What is the one thing you miss about the Netherlands?

Naturally my friends and family, but they come and visit me whenever they can. The one thing I really miss is my bike, to ride from one place to the other and feel the wind in my hair!

Is there a difference between dancing in Portugal and in the Netherlands?

Yes, for sure. I knew when I moved here that it was not the best city to move to dancing wise. In Holland there is more money, companies and projects then in Portugal.

sunset in lisbon

Any other interesting facts worth mentioning?

Looking back at the last 1.5 years, since I moved here, I arrived without knowing anyone, or having a home or a job and now, now I have a full amazing life here. I somehow surrounded myself with beautiful people and I have a weird, crazy, beautiful little family here. This city gives me the feeling of possibilities, of changing and never stop thinking about yourself, the people around you and being on this journey we call life.

I may not have achieved so many things since I lived here, but I know that a lot has happened and I’m not standing still.

This city makes me feel pure joy every single day that I walk here!


Where can you follow Zoey’s adventures?

The best place to follow Zoey’s adventures for now is through Área-Cinzenta’s Facebook page. Keep your eyes open for their performances and collaborations, I know I will!

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