Annie Honebrink-Menser Takes a Leap
“Ballet has been in my heart since I could walk — a whisper telling me to dance. I have followed that whisper my whole life. It is my voice, my soul. It soothes that ache inside that pounds and pleads to be heard. Ballet is a love, and love makes you leap.”
— Annie Honebrink-Menser
The Arts Insider couldn’t help but wonder how Annie Honebrink-Menser was adjusting, after having read the above declaration as the opening of her farewell remarks to the Louisville Ballet during its last production of the 2018-19 season, Cinderella. It was Annie’s final production after nine seasons as a company member.
In February, the Fort Mitchell, Kentucky native married Louisville native Keith Menser, and last month the 27-year-old moved to Provo, Utah, to be reunited with her husband, who’s finishing his medical studies at Brigham Young University.
Today’s Woman: When at 18 you embarked upon a professional career as a member of the Louisville Ballet (being its youngest member for a few years), after being with Cincinnati Ballet as a trainee during your junior and senior years of high school, were your goals to dance for a specific number of years, and did you have any idea of your career post-dancing?
Annie Honebrink-Menser: (laughing) “My goal at age 18 was just to get a contract…a job with a ballet company. Ever since I began my career I never imagined myself still dancing past my 20s. I actually married another dancer when I was 22, and had expected to begin having children after a year. But the marriage was a brief one, so I didn’t know what my future was going to be.”
TW: What was your first Louisville Ballet role?
Honebrink-Menser: “In the corps de ballet of Giselle.”
TW: First role in The Nutcracker?
Honebrink-Menser: “In 2010. I was ‘the Bear.’ I was cast as Marie in The Nutcracker the following year at age 19 (playing the role in the first matinee), and then played her every year since with 2018 being my final time. I’ve been dancing The Nutcracker since I was 2 years old…dancing along with the movie version in my childhood living room, after laying out costumes and performing all the roles. So being Marie for Louisville Ballet’s Nutcracker was quite literally a dream come true…cheesy, but true!”
TW: Favorite Louisville Ballet roles?
Honebrink-Menser: “Pas de deux in Western Symphony, Fairy of Gaiety in Sleeping Beauty, Spring Fairy in Cinderella, Marie in The Nutcracker, and The Rite of Spring (choreographed by Adam Houghland).”
TW: How did you meet Keith?
Honebrink-Menser: “I had met his sister Whitney in church, and we’d become good friends. And in 2017 she said ‘my brother is coming home for the summer from Utah where he goes to school (studying public health, with the hope of becoming a primary care doctor). I think you two should meet.’ And after one year of long-distance dating we became engaged in the summer of 2018.”
TW: When you got engaged did you realize it would involve leaving your ballet career at the age of 27?
Honebrink-Menser: “We knew that from the beginning…from the time we got serious in what had become a long-distance relationship. And even taking Keith out of the equation, I had started looking forward to other things I wanted to be doing with my future beyond dancing. So the timing worked out very well. And even though he now only has one more year of school left, I knew by the time we became engaged that 2018-19 would be my final season with the Louisville Ballet. As much as I love dancing and always will, I was just ready to do other things.”
TW: What are your career pursuits now?
Honebrink-Menser: “I love to write! Ever since I was in middle school and then high school. And I always thought I’d write novels and fiction. But when in 2016 I had the opportunity to do a lot of research on and write the piece celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Louisville Ballet, it broadened my perspective. I realized I enjoyed writing nonfiction as well, enjoying the research aspect of it. I don’t know exactly where the writing is gonna take me. But I have a couple of novels that I have a lot of work put into that I would like to eventually do something with.”
Upon the couple’s eventual return to Louisville, in addition to working on her novels, Annie’s plans include “working on getting my college degree, and teaching ballet.” Something she’s also really looking forward to one day is “becoming a mother!”
While packing her belongings recently to join Keith in Utah, Annie says, “I felt a little bit like I felt after high school…a ‘we’re doing this!’ excitement, like when having a career in ballet was my dream…my passion. It’s a little scary jumping into something new. ,” she admits, the irony of this now-former ballerina’s ‘jumping’ reference not lost on the Arts Insider. “But it’s exciting. And I’m gonna go for it.
“Ballet is a strange, beautiful, and difficult world. The process of seeking perfection has taught me to never stop seeking, growing, and becoming. I can always find more to give, and I will carry the lessons I have learned in the studio and on the stage into my next stage of life.”