Distinctively Dutch Festival celebrates country's modern arts
By Alice T. Carter
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012
If your image of the Netherlands is a quaint little country where people wear wooden shoes, grow tulips and hang Rembrandts in ornate gilt frames, get ready for a change of view.
For the next three months, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Distinctively Dutch Festival will host 18 events to highlight and celebrate the diversity and vibrance of contemporary performing and visual arts from the Netherlands.
"It's showcasing the modern Netherlands, not only its windmills and traditional arts," says Rob de Vos, consul general of the Netherlands in New York City. "It's art that's crossing borders through cutting-edge collaborations, (and) sometimes thought provoking."
Make no mistake. The consul general has a great appreciation for the Netherlands' classics -- the music played by Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra or the Vermeers and Rembrandts hanging in the Rikjsmuseum.
"But (you'll see) we have more to offer when you look at the selections chosen by the Trust. ... It's the best the Netherlands can offer. It's all very diverse," de Vos says.
Of the 11 main events, four are having their U.S. premiere. Two others -- "The News" and "Detroit Dealers" -- are so new, that even Dutch audiences have not yet seen them. They're making their world premieres here.
The Distinctly Dutch Festival gets underway Saturday with the U.S. premiere of Dance Works Rotterdam's "Anatomica." It's choreographed by Andre Gingras.
Paul Organisak, the Trust's vice president of programming and executive director of Pittsburgh Dance Council, calls Gingras "one of the most innovative choreographers working today. He combines a pop sensibility with incredible skill."
"Detroit Dealers," which the Rotterdam-based theater collective Wunderbaum will debut during the festival, might surprise audiences not familiar with Dutch theater, says actor Walter Bart, a member of the company.
Like much of the work produced in the Netherlands, "Detroit Dealers" was created by actors, designers, writers, musicians, photographers and film producers who collaborate as a group to develop multiple works during several years.
"In Holland, it has been popular since the '70s or '80s to work without a director. Actors direct themselves and everyone is responsible for the whole show," Bart says. "I think what could be surprising (to audiences) is that the work is multi-disciplinary. It's music, video and text, and can be pretty political and direct and open."
In addition to increasing appreciation for contemporary Dutch visual and performing arts, supporters of the Distinctively Dutch Festival hope to foster lasting economic, political, academic and artistic ties between the Netherlands and Pittsburgh.
A series of talks on architecture, new technologies and urban planning have been planned to bring businesses from both countries together, de Vos says.
"It should be the start to build up networks and learn who's interested," he says. "I hope we can say in two years time that people were brought together, and that led to more cooperation and the spin-off of knowledge."
That's already beginning to happen, says Lynn M. Brusco, vice president at the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, a not-for-profit company based on the South Side. The organization provides capital investments, start-up and business-growth services to move biomedical innovations and discoveries from laboratory discovery to the marketplace more quickly.
After a recent meeting with an economic officer from the Netherlands consulate, conversations have begun on how the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and companies in the Netherlands can jointly benefit from sharing resources and ideas.
"Essentially, we are talking about a future relationship based on similar interests," says Brusco, who plans to schedule future meetings around festival events. "When you have an opportunity to share assets of your region with another region, a positive relationship can come out of it. We're excited to be included."
• The Netherlands is the biggest producer of liquorice in the European Union. Each year, the average Netherlander eats about 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) of this candy they call drop.
• The New York City borough Brooklyn is named after Breuklen, a village in the Netherlands that has a population of 9,500. By 1840, Brooklyn, then an independent city, already had a population of 36,000.
• The Netherlands is the world' second-largest exporter of agricultural products.
• Since 2010, only cheese made in the Netherlands can be labeled "Gouda Holland" or "Edam Holland." When produced elsewhere, the words Gouda or Edam must stand alone.
• You can buy a bunch of tulips in a Dutch market for about 3 Euros ($3.95) . But in the 17th century, at the height of the tulip mania buying craze, the price of a single tulip bulb could have set you back for the contemporary equivalent of $35,000.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will host several events at venues around the city for the Distinctively Dutch Festival. Some events and details still are in the planning stages. Check for updates at 412-456-6666 or www.TrustArts.org/dutchfestival .
"Detroit Dealers" (8 p.m. Feb. 23-25, Trust Arts Education Center. $30): A world premiere performed by the Rotterdamn-based acting collective Wunderbaum. It juxtaposes the life of Walter Bart's car-dealer grandfather with the romance of the American dream and the concept of the car as a sex symbol.
"Diespace" (8 p.m. March 23-25, Trust Arts Education Center. $30): A U.S. premiere of PIPS:lab's multimedia work that uses interactive video technology, music and humor for an inventive and highly visual exploration of life, death and the Internet. On March 24, there is a post-performance artist talk with members of PIPS:lab focusing on the do-it-yourself programming and technology behind "Diespace."
"Last Touch First" (8 p.m. April 6 and 7, August Wilson Center. $35): The U.S. premiere of a work by Netherlands Dans Theater choreographer-in-residence Jir' Kyli• and dance-improvisation master Michael Schumacher is set in an imaginary 18th-century manor house inhabited by six characters.
"The News" (9 p.m. April 27, Byham Theater. $20-$30): Avant-pop composer JacobTV (Jacob Ter Veldhuis) reveals the world premiere of his tragicomedic video-opera that combines sampled speeches and sound bites from news media into an operatic synthesis of speech, music and video.
"Dudes" (May 16-20, Charity Randall Theater, Oakland. $8): A presentation of Pittsburgh International Children's Festival, Loek Beumer and Peter Drost bring song, dance, puppetry, mime and slapstick to the North American premiere of "Dudes." It's set in a small locker room where the possibilities for imagination are limitless.
"Girls'N'Guns" (April 27-June 10, 707 Penn Gallery, Downtown. Free): Two young Dutch artists -- photographer Rachel Nieborg and designer Ine Mulder -- reinterpret the still life paintings of the 17th-century Dutch masters with photos.
"Global Navigators" (April 27-June 10, Wood Street Galleries and SPACE, Downtown. Free): More than a dozen visual artists examine the concept of global exploration from perspectives that extend from historical Dutch exploration to the wilds of the Internet and new media.
Dutch Art at Carnegie Museum of Art (Saturday-May 20): Offers a self-guided tour of Dutch art in its permanent collection, ranging from Van Gogh's landscape "The Plain of Auvers" to innovations in early 20th-century abstraction by Mondrian and Bart Antony van der Leck.
"Dutch Women of Jazz" (8 p.m. May 18 and 19, Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, North Side. $30; $50 for both shows): Amina Figarova Sextet and the saxophone-led Tineke Postma Quartet perform on May 18; Saskia Laroo Band performs on May 19.
"A Creative Conversation with Wunderbaum: (8 p.m. today, Trust Arts Education Center. Free): Walter Bart and members of Wunderbaum about the collaborative and interdisciplinary process of theater making and performance. Register at 412-394-3353.
Choreography Workshop (6-8 p.m. Friday Dance Alloy Studio, East Liberty. Free): Professional dancers and choreographers are invited to study with Dance Works Rotterdam choreographer Andre Gingras. Register at 412-471-6079.
"The New Understanding" (6 p.m. Feb. 29, Carnegie Library Lecture Hall, Oakland. Free): Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture and the Heinz Architectural Center at Carnegie Museum of Art host architect Ben Van Berkel of UNStudio in Amsterdam for a lecture on the future of architecture.
Improvisation Workshop (noon April 7, Dance Alloy Studio, East Liberty): Professional dancers and choreographers are invited to study with improvisation artist Michael Schumacher. Space is limited. Pre-register at 412-471-6079.
Dutch Poetry (7 p.m. April 17, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, North Side. Free). An evening with six Dutch poets: Joost Zwagerman, Erik Jan Harmens, Helene Gelens, John Schoorl, Pieter Boskma and Lucas Hirsch.
"Rethinking Cities in the 21st Century" (6-8 p.m. April 26, Trust Arts Education Center): The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, in partnership with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, hosts creative thinkers from Pittsburgh and Holland to discuss the transformation of urban cities in the 21st century.
"Let's Go Dutch" (6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Cabaret at Theater Square): Dutch culinary arts and craft beers are explored a tasting of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Craft Beer School. Sold out.
Spring Flower Show (March 17-April 15, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens): A Dutch display in the South Conservatory will showcase tulips along with intricately painted wooden shoes and a windmill. Outside 15,000 bulbs will be planted in honor of the Dutch Festival.
2012 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival (March 22-April 15, Carnegie Mellon University): The program will highlight the recent cinematography of Holland with a wide range of award-winning films, documentaries and video installations by Dutch artists. Films, venues, times, dates and ticket prices have yet to be announced.
Dutch Dining in the Cultural District (April 23-27): Restaurants in the Cultural District will feature Dutch-inspired dishes and beverages.
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