The Netherlands’ oldest dance company is Rotterdam-based Scapino Ballet. It was back in January 1946 that they put on their first production in Amsterdam’s Carré theatre. Seventy-five years on, they’re one of the leading lights in Rotterdam Central District’s cultural scene. Erik Pals, the company’s business director, takes us back to his favourite première and explains what art and culture do for the city.
Last year was in so many ways a challenging one for the art and culture sector. But it didn’t knock Scapino from its course. Even with theatres allowing only small audiences, the company has been touring the country to offer its loyal public a magical evening. ‘We feel we mustn’t complain’, says Erik. ‘With ministerial and municipal support, we’ve been able to carry on, and so we’re performing where we can. It’s precisely in these times that we want to offer distraction.’
Pinnacle in Ferro Dome
Looking back to the days when there were no restrictions, it was five years ago that Scapino Ballet pulled out all the stops to celebrate its 70th anniversary. In sheer scale, its festive production TING was the biggest the company had ever done. ‘TING was my first première as a director and I remember it with pride. It was a colossal project in the Ferro Dome gas holder in the port area. The venue had to be completely rebuilt into a theatre with all the basic facilities like electricity and water. It was a challenge on all fronts, but equally a very instructive and extraordinary period.’
As well as spectacular theatrical productions, Scapino Ballet also works to interest young people in art and culture. ‘I see culture as having two key aspects. First is the appeal it lends a country and a city, followed by its value for people’s personal development. Our educational projects bring art and culture to Rotterdam’s youth. Scapino Ballet does a form of dance, and that makes it close to what kids see every day. Through culture, people open up to each other.’
TEXT Céline Boute