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Nederlands Dans Theater baffled by Council for Culture recommendation

04 May 2011

The directors of Nederlands Dans Theater are baffled by the recommendation issued by the Dutch Council for Culture (Raad voor Cultuur) to State Secretary for Culture Halbe Zijlstra last Friday. In its recommendation the Council proposes cutting the grant to the Nederlands Dans Theater by 40 to 50%. The Council also places the dance company in the category of a ‘regional dance amenity’ for the Greater The Hague Area. For many decades, Nederlands Dans Theater has been one of the world’s leading modern dance companies, producing great masters of dance such as Ji??í Kylián, Hans van Manen, Lightfoot & León, as well as many other celebrated choreographers and dancers. The company is the national and international figurehead of Dutch modern dance.

In a letter to the Volkskrant newspaper, the directors of Nederlands Dans Theater say they are disappointed by the Dutch Council for Culture’s recommendation. They accuse the Council of being unwilling to make choices on the one hand, while still wanting to make draconian cuts on the other: “… they have reached for the chainsaw, and great chunks will be sawn off all institutions, big or small, good or bad, valuable or dead weight. Wim Pijbes, director of the Rijksmuseum: "We are all losing one leg, which means we will all be limping.??? At Nederlands Dans Theater, we have lost much more than a leg – this decimation has left us without any limbs at all. This is all the more disconcerting when you consider that our company???s budget consists of little more than dancers' salaries, making these cost cuts nothing short of crippling.

Various review committees have awarded the dance company an extremely high evaluation of its artistic and commercial level in recent years. In December 2010 it was reported that Nederlands Dans Theater is of the highest level in terms of artistic quality.
The company gives more than 150 performances every year in the Netherlands and abroad, and it is a welcome guest at state visits. It is therefore an ambassador for the Netherlands and Dutch culture, and this deserves more than the parochial approach now proposed by the Dutch Council for Culture. The directors of the NDT say: “the Council thinks the NDT should become a „regional amenity??? for the Greater The Hague Area, and not an international or even a national company. It advocates reducing the number of international performances to the point where they are the exception rather than the rule, and recommends instead that performances should focus primarily on the towns of Hook of Holland, Rijswijk, Voorburg and Wassenaar and not on New York City, Melbourne or Buenos Aires. The report???s parochialism is astounding – our audience is based all over the world, and it is they, and not the Council, who decide whether Nederlands Dans Theater is an international or a regional dance company.

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