Gala Dutch Dance Festival 2019

Of course, the Dutch Dance Festival (de Nederlandse Dansdagen) has been in full swing since Tuesday, but the festival traditionally reaches its climax with the Nederlandse Dansdagen Gala. Besides showcasing a small sample of all the goodness the Dutch dance field has to offer – this year featuring excerpts from Motors by 155/Eenvijfvijf (who also have a residency at the SAM Decorfabriek this festival), 8:METAMORPHOSIS by Nicole Beutler Projects, 60 by Amos Ben-Tal OFFprojects, a solo from the upcoming Ayahuasca by Gil Gomes Leal and BROOS by Conny Janssen Danst – also the Zwanen (Swans) are presented (the Oscars of Dutch dance) for the best dance performance and best dance production of the past dance season.

But first, two incentive prizes are presented: the Dutch Dance Festival Awards. The winners receive a cash prize of 10.000 euros for their next project, which will be showcased at the next Dutch Dance Festival. The prize for Dutch Dance Festival Maastricht 2019 – for a promising dance maker without structural subsidies – went to Connor Schumacher (who was also nominated in 2017). The jury praised the way Schumacher seeks out a connection with the audience in his work: ‘The shows are exciting, they look for interaction and depart from a human measure, with a deep sense of connection as the guiding principle.’

This 22nd edition of the Dutch Dance Festival isn’t even over yet, but we already know that its 2020 edition will make a big statement. The jury of the Dutch Dance Festival Young Audience Award (Movement Exposed colleague Wendy Lubberding was one of its members) awarded its top prize to Cecilia Moisio, who promises to make a protest march for Nederlandse Dansdagen 2020, a politically engaged performance for young audiences, that will delve deeper into themes of political dishonesty and conformism. (Did I mention that Ingrid van Engelshoven, politician and Minister of Education, Culture and Science is here?). ‘One person can make a difference!’ Moisio contends in her video pitch. This prize is a promising first step.

More promising statements were made with the presentation of the Zwaan voor Best Dance Production and Best Dance Performance. Both winners challenge our conception of what dance is and what a dancer’s body should be. (Movement Exposed writer and founder Marcelle Schots is part of the VSCD jury – the jury of the Dutch Association for Theater and Concert Hall Management). Choreographer Arno Schuitemaker received the top dance production prize for The Way You Sound Tonight, which envelops the audience in a club dance experience, ‘a temporal experience of the eternal.’ In the jury’s words: ‘The Way You Sound Tonight is one of those theatre experiences that you hope will never end (…) Everything fits: the dance, the staging of the performers and the audience, and the continuous musical flow.’

Highlight of the evening was the award for best dance performance. Redouan Ait Chitt (also known as Redo) received the award – and a standing ovation – for his performance in the solo REDO (that he performed at the Kick-Off of NDD), which choreographer Shailesh Bahoran made especially for him. The fact that he was born missing several parts of his body (a leg, a few fingers, a hip joint, amongst others) was never an impediment for him as an urban dancer. It made him the raw, unique and powerful performer that he is. The jury: ‘Endurance and guts are manifest in the performance of the dancer, combined with ingenious creativity and enormous will power.’

At the closing of the Gala there was a special treat (and a second standing ovation): when a choreographer or dancer merits special attention for his or her enduring contribution to Dutch dance, they can be awarded a Gouden Zwaan (Gold Swan). Past recipients include dancer Tim Persent, prima ballerinas Larissa Lezhnina and Igone de Jongh and choreographers Anouk van Dijk and Ed Wubbe.

This year the Gouden Zwaan was awarded to choreographer Conny Janssen. They probably couldn’t have given it to a more deserving recipient. For more than 25 years her dance company Conny Janssen Danst has been a prominent fixture in the Dutch dance scene. The jury: ‘Conny Janssen Danst is beloved for its dancers’ physical dance style and theatrical power (…) For inspiration, the work draws on our existence in all its aspects: the fragility of life, the individual in relationship to the masses or the sense of belonging.’ Janssen is more than a choreographer; her company also offers a home for upcoming dance makers. From next week, Conny Janssen Danst will start on a brand new chapter in a new location: Huis Conny Janssen Danst, across the Maas in Rotterdam. The Swan statue will get a place of honour, near the window looking over the water, Janssen promises. ‘So she can look out at the seagulls bobbing about.’


Seen: October 4, Nederlandse Dansdagen Maastricht.


Photo: Sjoerd Derine