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30 oktober 2018 | Nieuws

Astrid Boons: “I am much more myself as a creator than as a dancer”

When Astrid Boons won the Piket Art Prize for dance in 2017, she felt this was a warm and solid encouragement to continue down her chosen path. She has been dancing since she was six, and is now going through a period of huge development as a choreographer. “I am not at all interested in reproduction. I want to discover what is essential, what is real, and get this across in my pieces, both as a dancer and as a choreographer.”

We spoke to Astrid in mid-May when she was totally immersed in the new
collaborative production Bold in Motion, a performance involving third-year students of the Academy of Theatre and Dance in Amsterdam. Immersed in the creative process that is, because making a piece means going through several stages and one of them is applying for subvention. “I find that difficult. My medium is movement. I make dance, something you have to experience. Still, I am required to give explanations, before I can make something. But I don’t use language – it’s purely physical. Besides, the great thing about art is that you never know in advance how it is going to work out. The initial idea is only used to a certain extent, the performance emerges as you go along.”

Watch Astrid Boons’s profile 

The purest form

Even as a child Flemish Astrid knew she had to dance. She went to the Royal Ballet School in Antwerp and later to Codarts in Rotterdam. She was successful as a professional dancer with, amongst others, NDT2 in The Hague and GötenborgsOperans Danskompani in Sweden. “When I dance, I want to be in the moment and move from one moment to the other in a natural way. Here my body decides. I am looking for the purest form, I want to know what urges the body to move. Of course, it all starts with an idea, but this mental state brings about a physical state of being. I want to discover what is essential, what is real, and get this across in my pieces, both as a dancer and as a choreographer. I am not at all interested in reproduction. Why reproduce something? We, human beings, are constantly transforming, our body renews itself all the time and every moment is different. I want to take the time to
present the essence of this development, and to reduce the body to its driving force.”

Something that is ‘totally Astrid’

Her work is very personal, vulnerable and fragile. Over time, she discovered that she cannot “be neutral and get under the skin of someone who just does what the choreographer says.” Astrid wants to give shape to her own ideas and watch how they develop, that is her vocation. “This makes me very happy, I feel I’m alive. As a choreographer I create something new. This is fantastic and totally Astrid. I’m uncertain about many things in life, but not about what I’m doing in the studio.”

“Sometimes I must let some light in”

Creating a performance is not easy. Astrid demands a lot from herself and her dancers: long improvisations, visualisations, exposing oneself. “Sometimes, like now, I have a tough week. Then I get stuck and never want to show it to the world. I am completely preoccupied. Why doesn’t it work? Is it my eyes, have I seen too much? Is the rhythm wrong? I put everything into it, that also makes it serious and hard. I feel I’m under pressure, responsible. Will I be able to deliver? Sometimes I consciously have to let some light in. But I never doubt what motivates me. I believe in what I’m doing and deep inside I know that everything will be fine when I follow my intuition.”

Esteem and self-confidence

The Piket Art Prize gave her financial backup she uses to develop herself through taking part in workshops. “That’s wonderful, just like the visibility it brings and the credibility. But the best thing the prize represents is esteem. I give everything and apparently people appreciate what I present on the stage. ‘Carry on, we believe in you.’ As an artist you must have self-confidence, but you also need your audience’s appreciation. After all, you want to convey something, touch others. When after a performance people say ‘I cannot speak, there’s so much emotion’ — that’s the most beautiful present for me.”

At the moment Astrid is working on a production which will be premiered on
8 February 2019 during the CaDance Festival in The Hague. As far as the future is concerned, Astrid dreams of her own company, so that she can work with a permanent group of dancers. “I believe in the building and developing of longstanding artistic relationships, because it deepens the artistic process. The feeling of mutual trust between choreographer and dancer is very important, and this also holds true for the relationship between dancers. When members of a group have faith in each other and ‘speak the same language,’ the dynamics are right and you can go further. I find this great to see, but it takes time.”