Jan Zoet opens academic year and welcomes fellow travellers at Academy of Theatre and Dance

Jan Zoet, Director Academy of Theatre and Dance. Photography: Jeroen de Beer

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On Tuesday 28 August 2018 Jan Zoet opened the Introduction Week for our first year students. During this week they will work in mixed groups (all study programmes combined) on a presentation on 31 August with the theme of the myth of Icarus.

Here you can read his opening speech:

Dear fellow travellers, explorers, makers, performers, designers, entrepeneurs, dreamers, shakers, rebels and students of the Academy of Theatre and Dance,

My name is Jan Zoet. I have the privilege to be the director of this Academy and want to welcome you on behalf of our staff, our teachers and Artistic Directors of this Academy where you – if everything goes well - will be spending your days and nights for the coming four years, where you will try, will make mistakes, will fail, will fail forward, will succeed, will get lost again and again.

To become the artist that you already are. Where you will pull everything out of your teachers and fellow students, where you will be trusted and challenged, where you hopefully learn and always be curious, where you will break the rules and be happy whenever you can manage it.

And where no one but you will be responsible for who you will be when you fly out, towards the skies of the and continue to learn and work and create in the many work fields out there and as a generation will take responsibility for the performing arts of the future.

And yes. It won’t be easy, you can easily fly too high and burn your wings and fall. Then remember that at least you háve been flying, unlike so many others, to pursue your dreams and passion. Remember to that falling down is just another option. You will stand up and fly again, maybe in other directions, maybe with others, maybe again towards the sun and then will not fall.

You have all enrolled in one of our fourteen departments – opleidingen -: programmes in dance, design, technology, theatre and production. And although your focus and structure will be towards your own departments and profession, it is important and inspiring to be aware of the fact that this academy is a learning community where you will be able to make friends and find colleagues, performers, designers, producers, technological whizkids, choreographers and directors who will or at least can be important for the rest of your life and careers. Because performing arts is the ultimate teamwork. Even a solo performance is the result of the joint efforts of a creative team.

As important it is to know others and be connected. You have all recognized in some way that you are an artist and want to dedicate your talent and professional career towards the world of the arts. That is courageous. And I thank you for that.  Arts – Kunst – is being criticized and positioned as a left-wing-hobby by many in these neoliberal times. That is narrowminded and untrue. Art – in all its broadness and diversity - carries and expresses civilisation, it connects communities and shapes identities of individuals as well as groups, it is the necessary counterpoint that triggers imagination and curiosity, two unique aspects of mankind and the only way out to find answers for the big questions of the world that we are faced with in this beautiful but dangerous 21st Century.

Art is not a hobby, art is the carrier of change and progress as well as the treasure chamber of great artists, writers and thinkers on whose shoulders you will stand.

Despite all this there are many who ignore or in a populistic way want to destroy this vulnerable field of immaterial values. That’s why it is good to be connected, together and use these years to experience solidarity and strength that will prevent you from falling.   

Starting today you will be challenged to see who will be these fellow travellers in the coming years. Throughout the year there will be many more opportunities to connect and learn together.

For example: every few weeks, on Tuesdays at 17:30 hrs, HALf6 in Dutch, there will be in the hall a talkshow about the school and the world, curated by teachers and students. There also is the possibility of organizing a HALf6 yourselves. Do it. And there is always free soup and drinks afterwards. So be aware.

In the last years we as a school started a debate about what we consider good art education and how we want to position ourselves as academy in society and the work field. That has led to an important step: deciding on a vision statement that I want to share with you:

if we trust that art matters
if we learn from everyone   
if we think artists contribute to shape the world
how will we act?   

You will be hearing and discussing these condensed simple words without doubt late. For me the essence is that art matters and that artists contribute to shaping and developing the world. We believe that we can and must learn from each other and from our students as aspirant artists. That means that we need to keep questioning what we do in order to develop ourselves. To be a learning community that includes all of us, open and critical, trusted and trusting, engaged with this brave new world that has such people in it.

I hope to meet you all in the coming year and wish you all the fun and inspiration in the coming week.

Jan Zoet
Director Academy of Theatre and Dance