© Ben Vollebregt

Talent development: Growth in dance and choreography

Photo credit: unknown

NDT 2: Four decades of young talent

NDT 2 celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018. Initially named De Springplank (‘The Springboard’), NDT 2 was established in 1978 as a preparatory programme for those looking to join NDT. Over the decades, it evolved into a fully independent company. Renowned choreographers from all over the world create productions for NDT 2, contributing to the company’s extensive repertoire, which is made up exclusively of original productions.

The company has always retained its original focus on helping young dancers to develop their artistic styles.

This picture shows De Springplank’s first tableau in the studio at Groenewegje no. 122 in The Hague. The inscription reads: ‘The original gang, March 1978: Ellen van Schuylenburg, Peter Buis, Laurina van der Vusse, Annegien Sneep, Tony Vandecasteele, Elsa van der Heyden and Simon Mottram’.

Photo credit: unknown

From dancer to choreographer

NDT has a long history as a training ground for dancers interested in branching out into choreography. In 1983, two years after joining NDT as a dancer, Spanish-born Nacho Duato created his first ballet, Jardi Tancat, which won the first prize in the International Competition for Young Choreographers in Cologne in 1984. After being appointed artistic director of Madrid’s Compañía Nacional de Danza in 1990, he joined the Mikhailovsky Ballet in 2011 before moving on to the Berlin State Ballet in 2014.

And Duato is by no means NDT’s only success story: Frans Vervenne, Nils Christe and Johan Inger are other examples of dancers who grew into successful choreographers during their time with NDT, while dancers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot became both choreographers and artistic directors.

© Jorge Fatauros

Talent development and education

The late 1980s saw the establishment of the Choreography Workshop (now called Switch), an annual project in which dancers are in charge of producing and promoting their own pieces. The proceeds are donated to a different charity every year, selected by the dancers themselves.

NDT’s youth division and the Choreography Workshop are both well-established initiatives that demonstrate the company’s long-standing commitment to talent development.

Yet it was not until 2003 that NDT appointed an employee to develop educational programmes and increase the focus on talent development. This evolved into a thriving Talent Development and Education department, with a focus on teaching and a packed calendar offering events and activities for families, budding dance talent, schools and anyone with a passion for dance.

© Running Gag Design

Dance on TV

Ballet performances were a regular feature on Dutch television in the 1960s as part of efforts to raise the profile of both NDT and contemporary dance as a whole. Since there was only one TV channel in the Netherlands at the time, these broadcasts attracted a large audience.
In the 1970s, former dancer and artistic director Hans Knill began making video recordings of all ballets. In fact, NDT was the proud owner of one of the first-ever Philips recorders, meaning that footage exists of all the productions dating back to 1976. 1

The company also began producing educational documentaries around this time – years before establishing an official education department – to introduce audiences to contemporary dance, largely unknown in the Netherlands at that time. This clip is taken from a 1961 documentary titled Jazz en danskunst (‘Jazz and the Art of Dance’), in which Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen uses his own ballets to explain jazz dance to the audience.

1   Versteeg, 1987 p.97