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Director of Dance Days Maastricht: "I really feel supported by Mayor Onno Hoes."

The Dutch Dance Days are not yet a mad hive of dance, but for Maastricht they are increasingly a fun tourist attraction. Day trippers and weekend tourists come from all over the country to combine the delights of the South with those of the art of dance. For that matter, all of Maastricht seems to float on VVV leaflets. In this atmosphere of promotion, is there still room for art that does something more than throw the leg high in the air and send a delighted smile towards the audience?

It depends on where you go to watch. More than ever, last weekend's edition drew a contrast between the main hall of the Theater aan het Vrijthof and the smaller venues scattered throughout the city. In the big evening programmes and nominations, dance was represented wall-to-wall: Leine&Roebana, ICKamsterdam, Het Nationale Ballet, Scapino, Station Zuid and Dansgroep Amsterdam competed for centre stage attention.

It was in the flanks that the unspectacular, vulnerable, moving or critical was addressed. Like, for instance, Erik Kaiel, who came up with Tetris was the only choreographer to really make a new artistic proposal, away from the neoclassical and intentional and expressionist gestures that have been dominant in the Netherlands for some time now. Building with physical patterns of people and things, in the theatre but preferably also in the public space outside, he evokes meaning in a very different way and challenges expectations about what dance is and does.

And Muhanad Rasheed, like Kaiel a previous winner of the Maastricht Dance Days award, impressed with Insomnia to show that rewriting someone else's work is also quite possible in dance. Insomnia refers directly to the language of Emio Greco and Pieter Scholten, but transcends borrowing. Instead of the excited dance body of EgPc, here were delayed phantoms on stage, expressing in feverish multiplication the concoctions of a night watchman without ever becoming dramatic.

The House of Burgundy produced not only Rasheed but also Catoke Kramer's contribution to the project Light years, which was shown in a blow-up tent on the Vrijthof Square. It was downright moving to see how 76-year-old Luc Boyer and his 13-year-old colleague from Venlo involved the audience in the vulnerability of their performance. Deep concentration and hushed physicality blossomed amid the din of tent, shopping city and cars. Untrained and practised viewers watched side by side breathlessly.

Peggy Olislaegers sits there satisfied when I ask her the other day about the divide. She does not agree agree, but agrees that for many visitors, performances outside the opening night and gala are becoming increasingly important.

"Many foreign programmers skip the Gala. They are more interested in the diversity of Dutch dance. I've worked very hard to make the different views visible, and I've come a long way this year. That chafes here and there, that friction, but that's a good thing. It raises questions and gives rise to conversations, that's what the dance days are for."

Peggy Olislaegers

But then why not something of that vulnerability or innovation on the big stage?

"That's what Leine&Roebana and Emio Greco | PC do for me. The gala evening is now simply marked by the VSCD awards. On an awards night, you can't really do existential questioning. I thought it was good that the National Ballet Minos premiered, still the work of a very young choreographer. And Felix Landerer and Itamar Serussi Sahar really came up with alternatives to the mainstream, neo-classical repertoire. But it was noticeable that an award-winner like Dansgroep Amsterdam did not take the opportunity to make a case for dance. Only Mirjam Koen entertained that spirit on behalf of Ton Lutgerink".

Mayor Onno Hoes, in his opening speech on Friday, talked about dance as a sport, ultimate control and care of your body. Surely that is a long way from what dance is as art has to mean.

"That is his personal fascination, he is a runner. I think it's just right that he has a personal commitment. He also chose five photographs from the TIN's archive and they are hung all over the city. That has real significance for the spread of dance in the city. I feel really supported by him and by the alderman for culture, Jacques Costongs, and by the province. I was able to almost double my budget this year with the help of private parties. Precisely now that art and artists are talked about so negatively, and people elsewhere in the country have the impression that this is probably even worse in Limburg, people in Maastricht are very much aware of the importance of giving art a place. But that can only be done on the basis of dialogue. It has to come from both sides. My commitment is to facilitate that dialogue."

There was more focus on youth dance than ever. Audiences could spend an entire day watching the duets of Light years. There were interdisciplinary discussions and a two-day symposium with people from theatre, pop music and festivals. The business community participates in the Maastricht Dance Days Prize, also through talks. All this exchange, are you doing it in the hope of anchoring dance in a new, more public role?

"I fully understand that when you are attacked so directly, the first escape is withdrawal and cynicism. But I hope the dance world can let go of those sentiments a bit. After all, as artists we have a lot of passion in our thunder. That is worth something. Seize this opportunity to pull together and step forward, to speak out and make those critical comments. And again, this can only be done in dialogue, by trusting each other and calling each other to account. The fun of discourse, challenging and appealing to each other, the dance is still discovering that, but I am hopeful."

Yet in retrospect, there was only one performance that clearly met the programme of social anchoring, stepping forward and providing critical commentary. And that was, unsurprisingly perhaps, the incisive performance Dog days From the Ro Theatre. Also virtuoso, but also raw and topical. It will be some time before this kind of work is allowed to grace a dance gala in Maastricht.

Fransien van der Putt

Fransien van der Putt is a dramaturge and critic. She works with Lana Coporda, Vera Sofia Mota, Roberto de Jonge, João Dinis Pinho & Julia Barrios de la Mora and Branka Zgonjanin, among others. She writes about dance and theatre for Cultural Press Agency, Theatererkrant and Dansmagazine. Between 1989 and 2001, she mixed text as sound at Radio 100. Between 2011 and 2015, she developed a minor for the BA Dance, Artez, Arnhem - on artistic processes and own research in dance. Within her work, she pays special attention to the significance of archives, notation, discourse and theatre history in relation to dance in the Netherlands. Together with Vera Sofia Mota, she researches the work of video, installation and peformance artist Nan Hoover on behalf of Author posts

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