edition 2020: In pursuit of the we

From 4 through 28 June 2020 Amsterdam will be abuzz with the 73rd edition of the Holland Festival. This year’s associate artist is the de American choreographer, director, writer and dancer Bill T. Jones. His productions at the festival include Deep Blue Sea, a reflection on the interaction between individual and group, in which Jones will dance a solo before being joined by a hundred mostly local dancers. Many more of this year’s performances, like those by world star Sami Yusuf, will also be addressing issues of identity and connection. And some of the great names from the performing arts world, from Pina Bausch to Miriam Makeba, will be honoured with new works, or by new interpretations of old works. 

This year will open with The Planet, A Lament. In this performance, created by an Indonesian/Australian team and featuring a 15-voice choir, dance and film, the Indonesian director Garin Nugroho (Setan Jawa, Holland Festival 2017) shows how a local disaster like a tsunami can affect the whole world. By working with communities from Indonesian Papua and East Nusa Tenggara, he also brings rarely heard voices and stories to an international stage. The performance laments humans’ unique impact on our global environment. Nugroho: ‘Now is the time to acknowledge the trauma of our planet from the effects of climate change. Perhaps it is through the collective process of mourning that we can imagine new futures.’ 

Associate artist Bill T. Jones: In pursuit of the we
Since 2019, part of the festival programme has been created through an intensive collaboration with one or two non-Dutch artists. With Bill T. Jones, the festival has allied itself with a multi-faceted artist who has been a major force in both classical and modern dance and performance for many years. After having devoted much of his past work to the individual, the interests and rights of communities and big themes like racism and HIV/Aids, Jones’s gaze has shifted to what connects people. Using references to the gospel song text We shall overcome and ‘We, the People’ from the American Constitution, Jones calls this search ‘In pursuit of the we.’ It is his response to issues such as social and political developments in the United States, where fragmentation and polarisation are only increasing.

The festival will feature three performances choreographed by Jones himself: Curriculum, a ‘doctrine for thinking dancers’; Prayers of the People, a collective rendition of Martin Luther King’s famous letter from Birmingham Jail; and Deep Blue Sea, a work about loneliness and connection, in a spectacular setting designed by architect Elizabeth Diller. The public can get to know the associate artist better in an additional programme: Associations, a selection of works by other makers from which he has drawn inspiration, performed live. 

Friendship, love, tolerance and understanding
The phrase ‘In pursuit of the we’ has gradually become a key theme that resonates through much of the festival programming in various ways. The Iraqi-American trumpet player Amir ElSaffar brings musicians from various parts of Africa together to make infectious ritual stambeli music in Transe (performed both in the Muziekgebouw and on the streets in Amsterdam’s Nieuw-West district). Sami Yusuf – who Time Magazine labelled ‘Islam’s Biggest Rockstar’ – bases his popular music on ancient Islamic Sufi traditions. In When Paths Meet he searches, along with Cappella Amsterdam and Amsterdams Andalusisch Orkest, for ‘friendship, love, tolerance and understanding between people.’ 

In The Just and the Blind, in which spoken-word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph movingly and poetically addresses the practice of racial profiling, we see that tolerance and equality cannot be taken for granted. Elaine Mitchener also addresses the continuing struggle, and the need, for equality and justice in her Vocal Classics of the Black Avant-Garde

The way in which words and language can connect as well as divide people is explored by the theatre makers of BOG. with their light-hearted performance TAL. The ways in which individuals influence each other’s lives is the theme of Nous pour un moment by Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe. The relationship between performer and audience is examined in various ways by choreographer Trajal Harrell (Porca Miseria), scenographer Jozef Wouters (INFINI 1-16), composers Ashley Fure and Simon Steen-Andersen (Together Games) plus multi-talent Micha Hamel (Luistermutant 2020). 

Tributes and reinvigorated classics
Unimpeded by national borders, artists the world over are reflecting on the past by paying tribute to their models, or by reinterpreting classic works. Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre du printemps will be given a very special reprise by dancers from various African countries. In addition, there is common ground[s], a new choreography by Germaine Acogny – ‘the mother of contemporary African dance’ – and Malou Airaudo, a former, and prominent member of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. 

The celebrated Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré is returning to the festival with Once Upon a Time, an Iron Rose... a tribute to the South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba. Louis Andriessen, a long-familiar face at the Holland Festival, presents an ode to his friend, the late recorder player and conductor Frans Brüggen with his new composition May. Singer Alicia Hall Moran will mix classics from the Motown and opera genres. And classical dramas like Op hoop van zegen and Drei Schwestern will be radically reinterpreted by Simon Stone and Susanne Kennedy respectively. 

Context and accessibility
The festival’s main programme will be given additional depth by taking a closer look at the main subjects and themes, in an extensive context programme that includes introductory talks, debates and workshops. This year we are working with Poetry Circle, Commonland, Glamcult Magazine, De Balie, Mister Motley and other cultural institutions. 

The Holland Festival strives to be accessible to as many people as possible. Performances are held in various locations throughout the city, from Internationaal Theater Amsterdam on Leidseplein to De Nieuwe Stad in Amsterdam’s Zuidoost district and the Osdorpplein in the Nieuw-West district. Furthermore, a differentiated pricing policy is being introduced, with a number of performances offered at a lower price or even free. 

In total the Holland Festival is presenting 33 (50 when context programme is included) productions with 92 (108 when context programme is included) performances / concerts / events, spread over 25 days. Including 9 world premieres, 5 European premieres and 18 Dutch premieres.

Have a look at the complete programme and book your tickets!