Skip to content

Maarten Baanders watched 'Nachthexen 1: Jeanne'. 'The music works its way right through you. At first, this gives me an uneasy feeling. But gradually it pulls me along.'

Is she on a podium of honour or a scaffold? Joan of Arc holds a monologue. She shouts out her words. The beat of the music propels an ominous atmosphere into the room. On the floor, five dancers make resolute movements. In a long series of statements and confessions, Jeanne speaks out what moved her to seek the battlefield. And more than that. The whole search for where she stands in this life draws past. Her struggle with a world that challenges and rejects her, a world against which she bumps and collides. A world that forces her to cry out. And that throws her back into her solitude. Into her inner world, where she is endeared by something as small as a day peacock, a butterfly that wonders nothing about its existence and survives the winter in all its tenderness.

Photo: Judith Zwikker

'Nighthexes 1: Joan' by Jens van Daele is about female heroes and spans six centuries of female courage. Fifteenth-century Joan of Arc shares the battlefield with dancers referring to Russian female pilots from World War II. These heroines contributed significantly to the victory over the Nazis. Dance, text, music and light are interwoven into a one-piece theatre performance.

Physical surrender

The physical abandon with which Hanne Struyf throws her text into space uncompromisingly drags you into Jeanne's inner struggle. Through her powerful playing, the dizzying text pulses at least as strongly as the frighteningly loud music. The flood of words opens up a vast space. Swirling emotions and thoughts. Get a grip on that. The life of Joan of Arc is a drama with no brakes on it.

Photo: Judth Zwkker

The beat thumps through the five dancers. Beautiful, frail figures, yet combative and confident. They dance simultaneously or alternate. Light and projection images engulf them. Wonderful as the light at the beginning cuts through the darkness like a knife. Later, projection images glide by. Clouds chased by the wind. A sea churning underfoot, hoping to finally find peace on the beach.

Right through you

The music makes its way right through you. At first, this makes me feel uncomfortable. But gradually it pulls me along. The vibrations put me on edge physically. I think of the threatening sound waves of a distant bombardment, but also of a driving inner force that awakens the desire in you to fight. Strength radiates from the women, but above all drive, surrender to what drives them internally.

Emotions close to you

The surprising thing is: no matter how big and powerful everything is, always the small, the vulnerable creeps in between the turmoil. 'Perhaps a little sadness is the beginning of everything,' is one of Joan of Arc's moving sayings. Softness, lightness, longing for togetherness: these are emotions so close to you. But now they sound from the mouth of a sky-stealer, of someone you look up to with awe. And with whom you constantly ask yourself: was what she did good or terrible? That makes you get goosebumps when you think about those small, intimate emotions.

Photo: Judith Zwikker

I also recognise small emotions in the dancers, a mutual commitment that I can feel directly with them. Humanity at the inhuman harshness the circumstances demand of them. In a group dance, they shift from one to another. A rich succession of contact moments. Tender gestures, calm, intimate, attentive. These are gentle traits, yet they do not diminish the power.

See also my interview with Jens van Daele:

Jens van Daele: 'The power of women is greater than that of men'

Maarten Baanders

Free-lance arts journalist Leidsch Dagblad. Until June 2012 employee Marketing and PR at the LAKtheater in Leiden.View Author posts

Private Membership (month)
5€ / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)