AMS National Ballet

The Dutch National Opera and Ballet is situated close to the busy canals at Waterlooplein. Photo Cristian Hillbom

“It seems the board of the house likes what I do!”

AMSTERDAM: Ted Brandsen is a well-known person at contests like Prix de Lausanne and other ballet events. Mr Brandsen has been assistant artistic director for the Dutch National Ballet and resident choreographer since 2002 and artistic director from 2003. Since 2012 he has been director of the Dutch National Ballet.

Mr Ted Brandsen

Mr Ted Brandsen, director of the Dutch National Ballet. Photo Sebastien Galtier

Mr Brandsen danced with the Dutch National Ballet from 1981 to 1991, when he retired from dancing in favour of concentrating on choreography. From 1998 to 2002 Mr Brandsen was appointed artistic director of West Australian Ballet in Perth.

Today Mr Brandsen has been artistic director for 10 years and director for 6 years. “How long is your contract valid?”

“It is undetermined how long I will be at this post”, he says to Dansportalen with a big smile. “It seems the board of the house likes what I do!”

Dutch National Opera and Ballet–is situated at the borders of the river Amstel at Waterlooplein in the very center of Amsterdam. The idea of building a house for the opera and a city hall first came up in 1915. But it took until 1981 before the City Council decided to build the “Stopera”. A building where one part of it is for opera and ballet (opened in 1986) and another part for the city hall (opened in 1988).

The history of the Dutch National Ballet is also very young, it was founded in 1961. The ballet gets half of it’s funding from the government and half from the city of Amsterdam. The opera section is fully paid by the government and the costs for the house are paid by the city of Amsterdam.

As the director of Dutch National Ballet Ted Brandsen has introduced and developed a number of important artistic initiatives. These include taking an innovative look at the full-length repertoire, presenting leading repertoires more widely throughout the Netherlands and introducing new world-class choreographers.

In collaboration with the National Ballet Academy, he initiated a closer link between the dance academy and professional practice, and was involved in founding the Junior Company. The Junior company was created in 2013 to be a stepping stone for young dancers to make the leap from the National Ballet Academy to the Dutch National Ballet.

The company has about 80 dancers, including the Junior Company and students. And well-known for our Swedish and Finnish readers is Kira Hilli a First Year student with the Junior Company. She participated in the Nordic Baltic Ballet Competition and won Junior first prize 2015. Next season (19/20) she will start as élève at the Dutch National Ballet.

In his view, Dutch National Ballet should not confine itself to reproducing existing traditional productions, however successful these may be. Mr Brandsen feels it is necessary to take a fresh look at the classics and believes that new impulses are vital. In 2017 Ted Brandsen got mentioned twice in the category 'Best Director of the Year' by Critic's Choice.


In July the shooting of Coppelia started; an original family film based on the modern translation of classical ballet. Photo DNB

You have choregraphed 10 pieces for the company, what are you planning for the near future?
At the moment he is working on the choreography for his original take on Coppélia: “We just started recording. It is an unique, international production in which animation and ballet are combined. It’s an amazing project in which a lot of our dancers are involved. For example the lead roles are portrayed by Michaela DePrince and Daniel Camargo.”

In the Dutch National Ballet around 80 percent of the dancers are not from Holland. The Dutch ballet school recruits’ new dancers mostly from the Amsterdam area. They have one student commuting from Groningen, around 180 km north of Amsterdam, two times a week. From next year this student moves to relatives in Amsterdam in order to get a daily training.

The school offers no boarding facilities for the students, so they need to stay with family or other relatives when attending the school. Despite that another student commutes three hours a day with the train from home to school.

Is the school a separate organization or linked to the dance company?
The National Ballet academy is linked to the Dutch National Ballet, the very best students will continue to the ballet company through The Junior Company.

What do you do in order to win new public – young people – for ballet and dance?
We have several initiatives for young people that invite them for special activities in our theatre. For example there is My Muse & Me, the members of this group consist of people between the age of 16 and 35. Throughout the season they receive discounts and they are invited for special activities in the theatre. A second initiative we have is the Young Patron's Circle. This is a special group of young supporters of Dutch National Opera & Ballet. Also we offer special ticket prices for students from time to time.

Cristian Hillbom
5 August 2019

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