The talk show I always wanted to organize

When the Russian impressario Sergei Diaghilev (1872 – 1929) staged a performance with his Ballet Russes, he sometimes asked Coco Chanel for the costumes. Jean Cocteau wrote the scenario. Pablo Picasso painted the decor. Igor Stravinksy composed the music. Vaslav Nijinsky danced and George Balanchine choreographed.

Just picture that for a moment. All these giants working for the same ballet company. I’d love to organize an evening about the Ballet Russes. Not just to celebrate how ballet can bring all these art forms together. But also to use the company’s big names to attract a new crowd: young people who may have never visited the ballet, but who’d give it a shot when they heard about these unique collaborations from the 1920’s.

That’s why I joined the Steering Committee of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet’s Young Patrons Circle. I know, it’s a mouthful, but our mission is simple: getting people between 21 and 40 interested in opera and ballet. We’ll do this by organizing events around the performances and trips to other companies all over the world.

The Young Patrons Circle of the Dutch National Opera and Ballet

I feel like this is a logical next step for me after organizing Literaturfest, a Dutch literary talk-show where three guests would talk about their favorite book. During our live shows in Amsterdam, we interviewed Donna Tartt about Charles Dickens, Gary Shteyngart about Vladimir Nabokov, Chad Harbach about David Foster Wallace, David Sedaris about George Saunders and Edgar Keret about Kurt Vonnegut. Guest couldn’t just freely use references that half the audience would miss, they really had to talk about what they liked about the book itself. This made it an accessible yet intelligent talk show about literature. Here’s an example:

Ever since then, I enjoy interviewing connoisseurs about their art forms in such a way that everyone can follow what they’re saying. I hope to offer the audience and myself a set of references that helps us in learning to appreciate fine arts.

So now I hope to do the same with the Dutch National Opera & Ballet. I’ll keep you posted on future events. Maybe that evening about the Ballet Russes will be in the cards.

I’ll leave you with a ballet video that went viral this week (how encouraging). Watch Sergei Polunin of the British Royal Ballet dance to Hozier’s “Take Me to Church”. David LaChapelle directed the video and Jade Hale-Christofi choreographed the dance.

P.S. If you’re interested in the Ballet Russes and you haven’t this biography of Diaghilev yet, please do so. It’s an incredible account of how Diaghilev literally used everything he got to organize performances. One of the most inspiring books I’ve read in my life.

Visiting the Tate for the first time; my 7 highlights

I have three rules for visiting a city: 1) never take the underground, 2) when you see a queue for a restaurant, join it and 3) visit the museum for modern art. Last week, when I visited London to speak at a journalism conference, I had a hard time abiding the first rule, but the third one didn’t meant any trouble at all, since I visited the Tate Modern for the first time in my life.

To give you a taste of the current displays of its collection, I’ll share the paintings I’ve found most impressing.

(click on the image for more information on the Tate’s website)

A Mi-Voix 1958 by Dorothea Tanning 1910-2012
Dorothea Tanning – A Mi-Voix (1958)
Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1
Ibrahim El-Salahi – Reborn Sounds of Childhood Drama I (1961-65)
Variation on the Form of an Anchor 1939 by Tristram Hillier 1905-1983
Tristram Hillier – Variaton on the Form of an Anchor (1939)
The Entire City 1934 by Max Ernst 1891-1976
Max Ernst – The Entire City (1934)
Lee Ufan - From Line (1978)
Lee Ufan – From Line (1978)
Composition No. 15 1925 by Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart 1899-1962
Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart – Composition No. 15 (1925)
Seated Nude 1909-10 by Pablo Picasso 1881-1973
Pablo Picasso – Seated Nude (1909-10)

While exiting through the gift shop, I picked up a copy of Austin Kleons new book ‘Show your Work‘. Expect a review soon.

Moleskine naar de Milanese beurs

Moleskine gaat naar de Milanese beurs. De notitieboekjes, al zes jaar niet meer hip en tegenwoordig in Lego-versie verkrijgbaar, zetten sinds 2006 elk jaar een kwart meer om en tikten in 2010 200 miljoen euro aan. Bedenker Maria Sebregondi kwam er via een boek van Bruce Chatwin achter dat Hemingway, Picasso en Van Gogh allemaal neplederen notitieboekjes met een elastiek gebruikte. Dus goochelde ze wat met de waarheid en deed ze alsof haar boekjes toen al bestonden:

“It was as if the whole history of the 20th-century avant-garde had revolved around a single hard-cover notebook held together by an elastic band.” Sebregondi’s boss at the small Milanese publishing company Modo & Modo trademarked the name Moleskine in 1997. The firm found a manufacturer in China, which began producing the notebooks to Sebregondi’s specifications, and the first Moleskines went on sale a year later, wearing their inflated historical claims about Chatwin et al on a sleeve.

Moleskine van Hugh MacLeod

Ik zie het succes van Moleskine vooral als een tegenreactie op de digitale hysterie: soms wil je, met een statisch boekje, kijken wat voor ideeën je krijgt als je ergens langer dan drie minuten over nadenkt.

Ondertussen zoeken hipsters naar nieuwe notitieboekenmerken. Zoals Field Notes (beetje 2010, maar heeft wel eigen Tumblr theme) en Muji.

De onvermoeibare Sergej Diaghilev

Met ballet heb ik niets. Ik ben zelfs nog nooit naar een voorstelling geweest. Toch heb ik met veel plezier en ontzag de biografie  van Sergej Diaghilev (1872-1929) gelezen, de man die met Les Ballet Russes de balletwereld – en eigenlijk de gehele Europese kunstwereld – van begin vorige eeuw ingrijpend veranderde. De Nederlander Sjeng Scheijen beschrijft op grootse wijze op hoe de Russische aristocraat uitgroeide tot een grootheid door wie mensen als Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinksy, Coco Chanel en Jean Cocteau zich lieten inspireren. Continue reading “De onvermoeibare Sergej Diaghilev”