Ted Brandsen © Liza Kollau


The strongest pressure is the one I put on myself

According to the artistic director of Dutch National Ballet, pressure comes from inside, as he always wants to create the best season to attract the largest possible audience. Yet he is very optimistic for the future of ballet,  he keeps working to create a respectful environment, and he likes to take calculated risks. Here, he explains it all to Alessandro Bizzotto, and he reveals him why he thinks that making dancers happy is not his job


After stopping dancing in 1991 and starting a new job as a freelance choreographer, Ted Brandsen became artistic director of Dutch National Ballet in 2003. I met him for the first time five or six years ago, at the party after the opening night of a run of performances of “Giselle”, at the Muziektheater in Amsterdam. I immediately realized he is both a determined leader and a tactful, polite person.

He is known for being the one who rejuvenated both the image and the repertoire of the Dutch National Ballet, making the company one of the most acclaimed internationally. And at the same time he has always seemed calm and discreet. We connect via Teams this time, late in the afternoon, on the eve of his summer holiday and a few days after the gala performance held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Dutch National Ballet, attended, among others, by the king and the queen of The Netherlands.

Ted Brandsen with Hans van Manen © Altin Kaftira

It is not just about artistic choices – public occasions such as the one you just had and visibility are also important for a director, aren’t they?

Of course, they are! We don’t create ballet for ourselves, we create it for an audience. And we work to get the largest possible audience, so PR and marketing must communicate our goals and our art to the largest possible audience. Having endorsements such as the one of the Royal Family coming to see us helps making the company visible to an audience that would never come to see us, but who watches the TV news and says, “Oh look! The King and the Queen… and those stars… they went to see the ballet”. It helps also to anchor the idea that our company, and art in general, are part of this society. And a good part.

Ted Brandsen in studio ©Liza Kollau

Compared to four or five years ago, what’s the most difficult task for the director of a big ballet company in Europe today?

For ten, even twenty years we have been working on opening up the company to a wider audience, through media, DVDs, tv broadcast… and through every new social media. Right now, hopefully after the pandemic, we need to make an extra-effort to reach our audience. Fortunately, they have been coming…

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