NDT - just a regional company says Dutch Council for Culture
Severe funding and touring cuts proposed
by David Mead
In a recommendation issued by the Dutch Council for Culture it has been recommended that the grant to Nederlands Dans Theater is cut by 40-50%. The Council also places the dance company in the category of a ‘regional dance amenity’ for the Greater The Hague Area.
The cuts are due to take effect from January 2013 but NDT is fighing the decision and more will be known in June this year.
The cuts are part of a much wider review of funding of the arts in the Netherlands. The Council has had its budget cut by 25%. It freely admits that its recommendations are far-reaching in their scope and that, if implemented, there will be a marked decrease in cultural activities. They also observe that ticket prices will increase sharply; attendances wil fall; the employment situation of several thousand workers and freelancers connected to the cultural sector will come under severe pressure; and that the development of talent, experimentation and innovation wil all suffer.
Given that NDT is very much the figurehead of Dutch dance, has been one of the world's leading contemporary dance companies for decades, and has nurtured and produced such noted choreographers as Jiří Kylián, Hans van Manen and Lightfoot & León, the recommendation has left the company's management baffled, along with, I suspect, most dancegoers, baffled by the recommendation, even given these financially hard times.
According to a statement on the company website:
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."
NDT has started an on-line petition to save the company. You can sign it here
The statement by the Council for Culture can be read here