3 questions to… Chantal Storchi

3 questions to… Chantal Storchi

About Talent Development & Education

Text: lisa reinheimer
photos: sacha grootjans

She has been working at Nederlands Dans Theater for fifteen years already. Chantal Storchi began working as an education officer and climbed the ranks, becoming the manager of Talent Development & Education. “When I began to work here, ‘education’ as it is called these days, did not exist at all. Today, we are an individual department, and we have leeway to conduct experiments as well.”

1. You are developing diverse activities and programs that are centered on the interaction between the company and the audience.
“Yes, that is correct. Choreographers and dancers create performances with the goal of being watched and experienced by audiences. That is primarily an exchange of non-verbal communication, and we consider it our job to further enrich and deepen that communication. To us, education is not simply about promoting and putting our stories out there, but also having both parties inspire each other, and to interchange experiences and creativity. Because of this, we are developing various activities and programs aimed at very diversified audiences that specifically focus on this interchange. For example, there are introductions where the audience members not just learn more about the choreographer and the work in question, but can also enter into dialogues with dancers. This is ideal for dance enthusiasts. But we also cater to amateur dancers, young talent, families and children, and primary and secondary schools. It ranges from individual activities, such as visits to performances that include backstage visits, or dancers who visit school classes, to custom-made courses for so-called partner schools, and special repertoire workshops at dance academies, which allow us to introduce young talent to the works of our choreographers. The beauty of this is that the number of participants is increasing, and many of them come back for more.”

Chantal Storchi with Roger Van der Poel during the NDT Summer Intensive 2019.

2. You offer performances and special class-based activities to primary schools. You also work together with so-called partner schools. What does this entail?
“We prepare special school performances aimed at primary school pupils. We adjust our choice of repertoire with this in mind. Utilizing the educational materials that we develop specifically for this purpose, the teachers themselves can prepare their pupils to watch the performances. Some schools are so enthusiastic that they ask for more. Due to this, we developed Dancer in the Classroom in conjunction with a partner school, and this is still a major success. This project focuses on the skills of dancers. Children can experience dance from extremely up close, discuss it, and also move alongside one of our dancers. These activities are active, creative, perceptive, and contemplative, all of which are important learning objectives of the development of primary school pupils. Because the children are situated so up close and react very spontaneously, the dancers themselves also learn a lot. This requires a very different performance skill set. Schools that have hosted various activities and are really enthusiastic about them enter into three-year-long partnerships with us, thus becoming partner schools. We currently have entered into a special partnership with primary school De Bazaar at an asylum seekers’ center. This shows us how people communicate and connect on a universal level through dance. Pupils of this school are children from various cultures whose futures are insecure. We always ardently aim to connect with our target audiences. For example, all these children are required to learn Dutch. We develop activities for them that give them the space they need to feel secure and to learn how to express themselves through movement, while at the same time, we assist them in learning Dutch. By linking movement to spatiality and language, they learn prepositions such as behind, next to, and in between.”

Education is also about interchanging experiences and creativity.

Chantal Storchi

3. You said that when you began working here, “education” as it is now called did not exist at all. Today, 15 years later, the mere notion of the department of Talent Development & Education not existing is inconceivable. You mentioned that you even have leeway to conduct experiments. How do you achieve this?
“Normally, we are always in touch with a school physically, but because of this, there are also limitations. We, therefore, wanted to develop something that would allow us to let all primary school teachers and pupils work with our stories in an accessible way. We also wanted to have something that is suitable for modern education. Due to this, we came up with the idea of developing an app. This was a real first, as, at that time, no other dance companies in the world had ever done such a thing. Together with a creative team of educators, web designers, Pite herself, our dancers, as well as children, we developed several interactive classes based on Crystal Pite’s performance Parade. An added benefit was that Pite’s son was in the age-bracket this project was aimed at, which strengthened her connection with, and motivation to work on this process even further. We examined the learning objectives in education as well as various interactive modes in the app for teachers, as well as for pupils. Although Parade is exceptionally well suited to deal with specific human issues, it can also be used to examine the creative elements of a performance. Right now, we are developing yet another app about dance. We are currently working with Johan Inger’s Dream Play. Watching him see the dancers, the concept, and the movement material with different eyes is so much fun.”

This interview appeared in the anniversary issue of Dans Magazine, which was specially devoted to the sixtieth anniversary of Nederlands Dans Theater.