Following her previous creation for the Choreographic Project for the Prix de Lausanne, the Dutch choreographer Didy Veldman, who works in England, is now making a new work for Dancers of Tomorrow. “It’s really great to be able to make something for my ‘old school’”, says Veldman, who trained at the Scapino Dance Academy, one of the forerunners of the National Ballet Academy. For her new piece – choreographed for NBA 7 and the Bachelor’s students – she took inspiration from her Dutch roots. She has therefore also chosen to use Dutch music: a section from Simeon ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato.
“Ernst (Meisner – ed.) asked me if I’d like to make a piece for a large group of students, so I thought I’d go straight for thirty kids. In England, I usually choreograph for small casts with my own ad hoc company. And in June, there’s the premiere of a new work I’m making for twelve dancers of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. So I jumped at the chance to make something big for a change”.
She also had an idea for the piece straight away. “I’d always wanted to do something with clogs – and where better than the Netherlands?” It got her thinking. “What does Holland mean to me. What do I think is typically Dutch and how can I use it in my choreography? What springs to mind, of course, is the meadows, the cows, Delft Blue, the flat linear landscape and the horizon that’s nearly always visible when you drive through the Netherlands. My mother comes from a farming family, so as a young girl I often visited my uncle’s farm to look at a new-born foal, for example”.
At the farm, she also used to see a long row of clogs standing in the hall – “my uncle had thirteen kids” – from which she is now taking inspiration as well. “Although the students definitely won’t be dancing in clogs all the time, as the footwear is too limiting and”, she laughs, “makes far too much noise. I’ll be using them mainly as a stage set. Whenever the dancers take off their clogs, they’ll form nice lines in the space”.
Mondrian and Van Manen
Veldman will use her other sources of inspiration with equal subtlety – “it definitely won’t be folklore” – but she does describe her new work (as yet untitled) as a ‘mini ode to Holland’. Incidentally, it is also an ode to Dutch art. “I’ve chosen to set the piece to a section from Simeon ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato. I think the minimal piano music relates well to the Netherlands of Mondrian. And yes, those clogs are also a reference to Hans van Manen and Clogs, his ballet for clogs. Hans, too, is an essential part of Dutch history in my view”.
She has been rehearsing with the students for two weeks now. “It’s a really nice group of young dancers. Some of them were really open right from the start. It’s great to see how they dive into the adventure, full of daring, and how they want to think along and participate in everything. For others, it’s still all new. At the National Ballet Academy, of course, you’re working with many different nationalities. The Japanese, for example, are not so used to giving personal input”. She laughs, “Let alone dancing in clogs. They’re struggling a bit, but over the past two weeks, I’ve seen them starting to realise that the more they do and try things out, the better it will work”.
Astrid van Leeuwen