SPRING Dares Utrecht

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It was a pleasure to have Rainer Hofmann organizer of next month’s SPRING Performing Arts Festival answer a few questions:

What has inspired the Spring Festival?

The most important inspiration for SPRING were and are the artists and their art works. We follow them and at the same time stimulate new artistic developments. Especially the breaking of borders between genres which has been a crucial development in the last 10 years and SPRING focuses very much on crossover productions.

Is there somewhere special about Utrecht that makes you hold the Festival here?

Utrecht is a festival city. It has a good size which allows festivals to have a good visibility and make an impact on urban life. In big cities you can easily disappear as a festival. Utrecht is a great location for art in public space, something SPRING has a long track record of. Furthermore, SPRING has a history in Utrecht of more than 30 years with its predecessors Springdance and Festival a/d Werf.

Is Utrecht a particularly artistic city?

Utrecht has a rich cultural infrastructure. Especially on the levels of festivals there are many examples with high quality and of international importance: from Gaudeamus Music Week to the Festival for Old Music, from Le Guess Who to Impakt and of course SPRING for performing arts.

Yet Utrecht could do more for young artists, who need more studios and affordable housing. The presentation side is good, we need to do more for the production side. But we are making progress: Five organisations from Utrecht started an important initiative, Standplaats Utrecht, a talent development place for young artists in theatre and dance, who want to commit to Utrecht and to each other. Standplaats started its activities last September with three artists/collectives and we are in the selection process of the next group of artists.

Who should take the lead, Municipality, Artists/Performers, Schools, Universities?

In terms of arts, the artists and the arts organizations, but also the art school and university. A municipality needs to set the frame for the creatives.

I am festival maker. I want to make things possible and connect audiences with artists and their shows and installations. The interesting thing in Utrecht is, that you cannot work only for your peer group, but you work for the people of Utrecht. Another remarkable point in Utrecht is the good co-operation between organisations. We prefer co-operating to using our elbows against each other.

What performances are you most inspired by?

I am inspired by artists who take risks, who go all the way, who dare new things. In the Netherlands I like people like Julian Hetzel or Dries Verhoeven, who always find a compelling and attractive form for highly political issues. In this year’s programme we highlight some international artists: Kris Verdonck, who combines dance, animated objects and visual arts in Something (out of nothing) or Greek choreographer Tzeni Argyriou whose performance Anonymo thinks about the building of communities in pre-social media times. She uses elements of Greek folk dance for this and makes something completely contemporary with it.

Who are the MUST SEE performers?

For the political animals: Zora Snake in Transfrontalier, for the tech freaks the robot in Stefan Kaegi’s Uncanny Valley, for the queer community the whole cast of Vincent Riebeek’s One of a kind and for the dance fans the amazing 22 people ensemble in Boris Charmatz’ 10000 gestures.

Why is this Festival different?

SPRING is probably the most daring performing arts festival in the country. We are truly contemporary and regard the unknown as an adventure. We show and support artists who go all the way, who dare to tread new ground, who research and question our world in all its complexity. We show artists who are looking for new artistic languages and who are aware of and reflect on current society. I prefer artists who risk the untested to those who rely on a success formula. I like art works who touch me emotionally, hit me with their power and give me food for thought.

Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?

During the festival in the audience. And since I am travelling so much scouting for artists I appreciate my own home, my running route and in the summer my swimming-place just out of town.

What would be a perfect day for you in Utrecht?

The opening day of the festival is, when things come together, when the opening show makes people enthusiastic and builds an energy for the next 9 days. The rest of the year a good day starts with shopping on the market, coffee on Stadhuisplein, lying on the sofa with a good book, having a nice meal with a friend and finishing it off with a good movie in one of the art houses. Quite a cliché for a cultural worker, isn’t it?

Does Utrecht do enough for creative arts?

Is there ever enough? Art is one of the best inventions of mankind. In general Utrecht is doing fine, but as a fast-growing city, arts budgets need to grow too. In other words, Utrecht should dare to think in long lines. Where do they want to be in 10, 20 years? Do you want to be a provincial city or a metropole that is still livable? If you want to be a metropole, go for it, think big and learn from the mistakes of others.

Would you like to see more activities like your Festival?

I would like to see more daring and more international programming in big theatres and other cultural organizations.

So once again we can see Utrecht at the forefront of artistic endeavor. We are sop lucky to have festivals like SPRING and should take advantage of them when we can. May can’t come soon enough!

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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