Open Space 2021

Looking back on the project

Open Space is a new two-week long talent development and research platform organized by NDT and Korzo, that is fully dedicated to stimulate the artistic and creative capacities of its participants. The project is designed as a space for young and/or established creators to explore their creativity by opening the doors to ideas from disciplines outside their traditional realm. For this first edition of Open Space the dancers of NDT 2, together with three choreographers, three composers of the Royal Conservatoire (RC) in The Hague, and astronomers from the Leiden University have explored the connection between dance, music and cosmology. This marks the first time NDT collaborates with the world renown institution of the Leiden Observatory.

The choreographers who worked with the NDT 2 dancers were Antonin Rioche, Astrid Boons and Marina Mascarell. Each group paired up with one of the composers – Eric So, Rose Connolly and Sóley Sigurjónsdóttir – as well as one of the astronomers Henk Hoekstra, Pedro Russo and Omar Contigiani.

In this story, several participants from different disciplines look back on the two-week long project and share their personal experiences with you.

The photos were taken by the participants themselves, among which NDT 2 dancers and other staff, and give you a good impression of the project. Enjoy!

Watch more photos in the gallery

The creative process was the predominant imperative, and that was evidently beautiful in itself.

Rose Connolly

Artistic leader of NDT 2 Fernando Hernando Magadan

Open Space gave us the chance to experience the invigorating dynamic of creativity, free from the added pressure of producing a work on a deadline. When we place the focus entirely on the playfulness and freedom of the imaginative process, it returns us to the essence of what we do.

It’s been fascinating to witness how the different artistic and scientific methodologies can inspire and feed each other. To reflect on how the foundational process of creation and discovery shares a common dynamic. To witness how each team of dancers, choreographers, astronomers and composers collaborated in the development of ideas, purely motivated by such a fundamental desire for playfulness and discovery.

The Open Space platform has become a wonderful tool to spark fresh creative energy and to stimulate new approaches and ways of both thinking and working. The participants were encouraged and challenged to step out of their comfort zone and approach their work from a different lens.

It has been a very revealing and meaningful experience for all. Inspiration and new ideas cannot simply be called upon, and all we can do is establish an environment which invites creativity – that’s the soul and purpose of for this new research and talent development platform.”

Fernando in the studio. Photo: Jesse Callaert.

NDT 2 dancer Emmitt Cawley

Open Space. A space and time where infinite possibilities of discovery could be ‘achieved’. At first I thought this time would bring a new process of creation and development and so I ventured  in with an open mind and open heart, and came to realize that what I found was not anything new or anything unknown but rather things that have been forgotten or pushed aside in today’s times.

The reason why we do what we do is the process of collaboration though collective curiosity. The sharing of ideas and the potent realization that the product is never an outcome… but rather to be absolved into the richness and gratification within the process of discovery, questioning and wonder.”

Emmitt (on the far right) was working together with choreographer Astrid Boons. Photo: Fernando Hernando Magadan

“This specific process brought attention back to the fundamental and foundation of our art. The human experience and interconnection with other beings and the universe we exist within. We are all small specs of stardust in this infinite spectrum of time and space. The most valuable piece of understanding that I found for myself was that if I found myself with an answer and no more questions, I was probably looking in the wrong direction.”

The interactions and different perspectives made us all reflect on what we do, and how we can use our new insights to advance our own respective fields.

Henk Hoekstra

Choreographer Antonin Rioche

Antonin's group of dancers together with astronomer Omar Contigiani. Photo: Kalyn Berg

“For me, Open Space was a really incredible period of reflection, questioning, trying-out, and learning how to be more playful in a studio.

I have learned a lot from this experience, it has been one of the most beautiful professional experiences I have had until now. So rich of knowledge, discovering new things about myself but also connecting with others, and all of this in a very great ambiance of work. It was such a happy period!

To be in contact with passionate people like these astronomers from Leiden University and being able to share our passion and curiosity with each other was extremely precious.

At the end of the process, someone mentioned: “great time with great people with great passion”. I thought it was a good expression to describe these two weeks at NDT.

I am used to having this type of collaboration with other art fields; but to connect with new people, who have a very different perception of things and approach to art, was very enjoyable and I learned a lot from this meeting. It was a very human experience.”

“What I loved about this process was that in the end it was super challenging to be creative and to keep trying reinventing myself and my way of thinking every day. It has opened a lot of doors in my imagination!

Working with the dancers of NDT 2 was such a dream, they are so open and willing to research new ideas and to push the work always further. It’s just so precious and stimulating to work with dancers who are so invested and present in the studio!”

Antonin (second from the right) working with his dancers. Photo: Fernando Hernando Magadan.

Composer Rose Connolly

“This Open Space project accurately fulfilled its title in every respect. From the start, we didn’t have any expectations, Astrid (Boons, choreographer) and I were completely open to how we were going to approach the creative process and the outcome also. This allowed us to discover new, exciting, and innovative things, with dance and for me, sound. Every day we would regurgitate new material, new ideas and new possibilities with the help of a morning filled with exciting information about the universe from the astronomers.

With the absence of an end-goal or presentation, this gave us an abundance of freedom to discover what we could achieve with music and dance, with the influence of such profound concepts of the universe. The creative process was the predominant imperative, and that was evidently beautiful in itself.

In addition to this, the dancers and I had a beautiful ‘feedback loop’ where we would be in total power over each other’s actions. Although, experimenting with the divergence of a certain reaction was equally as interesting and produced something quite amazing and yet intuitive.

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with a wonderful choreographer, incredible dancers and astronomers, and it will be something that I will carry with me for the rest of my creative and artistic endeavours.”

Rose in the studio. Photo: Jesse Callaert.
Annika (in the middle) with her group. Photo: Fernando Hernando Magadan.

NDT 2 dancer Annika Verplancke

“Rarely do we as dancers at NDT ever get the chance to dedicate time solely to research, so being given two weeks to do just that in collaboration with not only choreographers but also composers and astronomers evoked an extremely inspirational and rare environment for everyone involved.

Learning about a few fascinating concepts underpinning cosmology and the way astronomers go about studying their science induced so many questions. Most evidently, it made me question my current default way of honing my craft and with that, it transformed it into one fiercely dedicated to the research and journey of things.

My biggest takeaway from Open Space is that it is in the process of all meaningful things in life that the magic lies. To truly surrender to the exploration of an idea, a moment or a thought is to, as astronomer Henk Hoekstra put it simply, “not search for the outcome but let the outcome present itself”. The outcome of this rich exchange presented itself to me as a full heart and a forever changed mind.”

Annika (in the middle) during one of the presentations. Photo: Jesse Callaert.

The most valuable piece of understanding that I found for myself was that if I found myself with an answer and no more questions, I was probably looking in the wrong direction.

Emmitt Cawley
NDT 2 dancer

Astronomer Henk Hoekstra

Henk together with Fernando and Rose. Photo: Jesse Callaert.

“It all started with an idea of my wife after we watched a performance in 2017: “you should do something with NDT”. As I am an astronomer, that was easier said than done. After all, what do dance and astronomy have to do with one another? Nonetheless, after giving it some thought, I realized there are many connections, albeit mostly historical. Over the past century, however, dance and astronomy have evolved, whilst drifting apart. I wrote a letter arguing that it is time to (re-)connect. This was well received by Fernando Magadan, the artistic leader  of NDT 2, who developed this into Open Space.

More than three years since the initial idea, dancers, choreographers, composers, and of course, astronomers, came together for a unique research project to explore the links between cosmology and dance. The result was remarkable, with the excitement of all involved filling the studios. Open Space became a truly collaborative effort, where we, as astronomers, were fully engaged in the process. The interactions and different perspectives made us all reflect on what we do, and how we can use our new insights to advance our own respective fields.

Two weeks is not enough to explore a century of progress in both dance and astronomy. Open Space is only the beginning of something much larger. I am looking forward to explore the next steps.”

Choreographer Marina Mascarell

“I love creative rules, a system or a structure. For me, it has been extremely interesting during Open Space to be going into the studio freely, to be able to apply different rules and relations. We were able to discover and explore in terms of applying what we are learning.

I like to have people around talking to me during a creative process, it’s a way of articulating my thoughts. The fact that there was no pressure for an end product in Open Space gave me the opportunity to really listen to this new information and delve into it. A nice interaction between the astronomers and us choreographers developed; in the beginning we mostly gained information and inspiration from everything they dropped with us, and when the project progressed they realized the collaboration was also having an impact on them.

I think all the conversations we were having with the astronomers will show an impact in a few months. It’s a big subject and it will even have an impact on the way you see life. We can talk about loss of the universe and form ideas about it ourselves, but it can really become tangible when we talk to the astronomers as we did during Open Space. It also showed me that it has to do with how you position yourself, having a consequence on the way you work, or in my case, on how you create.”

Dancer: Sophie Whittome. Photo: Kele Roberson.
Marina together with astronomer Pedro Russo in the studio. Photo: Kele Roberson.


The NDT 2 dancers were also presented several workshops to get acquainted with different styles. The workshop teachers were Parvaneh Scharafali, teaching a William Forsythe workshop, Zino Schat from the Fractal Collective, Rauf ‘Rubberlegz’ Yasit and Gil Gomes Leal a.k.a. Gil the Grid.

Workshop by choreographer Zino Schat. Photo: Mikaela Kelly

The Open Space platform has become a wonderful tool to spark fresh creative energy and to stimulate new approaches and ways of both thinking and working.

Fernando Hernando Magadan
Artistic Leader NDT 2

List of participants

Artistic Leader NDT 2: Fernando Hernando Magadan

Moderator: Stacz Wilhelm

Astronomers: Prof. dr. Henk Hoekstra, Dr. Pedro Russo, PhD candidate Omar Contigiani

Choreographers: Astrid Boons, Marina Mascarell, Antonin Rioche

Composers: Sóley Sigurjónsdóttir, Rose Connolly, Eric So

General director Korzo: Gemma Jelier

Coordinator Composition Department and the Institute of Sonology, Royal Conservatoire: Erika Bordon

NDT 2 dancers: Annika Verplancke, Ivo Mateus, Jesse Callaert, Cassandra Martin, Emmitt Cawley, Nick Daniels, Sophie Whittome, Barry Gans, Kele Roberson, Mikaela Kelly, Charlie Skuy, Jordan Pelliteri, Demi Bawon, Auguste Palayer, Austin Meiteen, Jui-ting Yu, Kenedy Kallas, Samuel van der Veer, Kalyn Berg

Assistants / teachers NDT 1: Keren Leiman, César Faria Fernandes, Emily Chessa

Workshop teachers: Parvaneh Scharafali, Zino Schat, Rauf ‘Rubberlegz’ Yasit, Gil Gomes Leal/Gil the Grid.

Guest speaker: Thijs Biersteker

NDT Company management: Linda de Boer, Bastian Manders

NDT Talent Development & Education: Eva Monen, Lucie de Haas, Saskia Bosman

Technical production: Michiel Schnelle

Sound technician: Daan de Boer

With special thanks to

NDT is very grateful to Edmée Muysken. Since 1980 she has been a loving and very committed Friend of the company. As a great lover of art and culture, she was married to artist Leo Muysken, she enjoyed the performances of NDT to the fullest and she often took part in friends’ trips abroad. Edmée thought it was a great idea and  for her it made perfect sense to pass on her love for NDT in the form of a legacy. Her bequest will benefit the first edition of Open Space in 2021 and the second edition in 2023. In doing so, she helps new generations of dancers to develop their artistic personality through research and innovation.