The AHK Board has been appointed Marijke Hoogenboom as Professor at de Theaterschool , a position she will take up on 1 September 2012. As head of the Art Practice and Development research group, she has for many years been part of a large number of projects within the school.
Before that, she was involved of the founding of DasArts together with Ritsaert ten Cate, and more recently she co-developed the international second-phase study programme at DasArts into a Master of Theatre degree programme.
Hoogenboom is now returning to de Theaterschool to prepare for drawing up a plan of action to design, set up and run a full-scale research group for dance and theatre. In this interview she talks about her observations, initial findings, plans and prospects.
A fresh perspective
‘In my cross-faculty position, I’ve had the privilege of working with de Theaterschool on various research and development projects. But working this way, you only experience the primary process of education from the sidelines. Thanks to my involvement with DasArts, I’m already well acquainted with master education, so now it’s my priority to familiarize myself with the bachelor study programme. But before I start developing any grand plans, I know I need to take a fresh look and take stock of what’s going on in de Theaterschool. I’ve been very involved in the current process of change at the school, and I’ve developed a good understanding with the artistic directors. I explore with them what they want to achieve through the study programme, and I expect them to bring me into contact with other professionals who can further our research. I also regularly meet with dramaturgy and theory teachers, and I plan to attend some of their lessons. I’ll be trying to find out what theories are relevant to students, at what level they’re being taught, and how reflection can become an integral part of their training. At the same time, we’ll be looking together at developments and discussions that are currently taking place inside and outside the school.’
Innovating education through research
‘The heads of the research groups, including myself, have been asked to innovate education by investing in research. Initially, the emphasis was purely on improving teacher expertise in this area, but I think there are other ways to move forward, too. For example, we would benefit from taking the artists themselves more seriously. After all, it’s they who are continually contributing to the research agenda in the arts, either through their own work or through discourse. And we must also explore ways in which the academy can distinguish itself from a university. Research is predominantly practice-based in the context of our school, so it’s inextricably linked with practice. The question is this: What is the best way for a research group to facilitate all these processes?’
‘The way I view research and development is influenced by the experience I’ve gained in recent years. I always focus on the triangle of education, research and context. I try to use this sliding scale to organize a dynamic interaction. I’m not limiting myself to the master phase, because I also have to know what’s going on in bachelor education – although that doesn’t necessarily mean I need to be active at that level. Research that focuses exclusively on the individual development of students or teachers is often limited in scale. I’m being given the opportunity to look at things in a more comprehensive, policy-oriented way. But it’s still worthwhile to assess the importance of small-scale research, because that knowledge will feed into our dialogue with the field and the professionals who teach here. Ideally, I’d like to create formats that transcend individual development paths, formats starting from a hybrid group of people with a common problem. I’ve noticed that the tendency in some study programmes for research to stack up layer upon layer. Bachelor students first develop research skills and then sometimes choose subjects that are also relevant to the development of the sector, which in turn influence education. Research based on the sliding scale from individual research to follow-up research within a master or research group can even lead to multi-year programmes. I’m not going to be setting any limits for myself in the orientation phase. It’ll only be after a wide-ranging assessment that we’ll be able to determine all the potential routes for developing research at de Theaterschool. That’s when we’ll be able make choices and set priorities.’
Research and development
‘In my view, research and development should go together. I don’t think you should exclude any activities that might make a faculty receptive to research. As part of innovation processes in the school involving analysis of the professional field, study programmes raised a number of issues that could serve as leads. It emerged, for example, that graduates seeking new audiences are increasingly stepping outside the traditional boundaries of the performing arts field and connecting with other sectors. It’s probably too early to devote research to this topic, but as a school we can develop activities to concentrate more explicitly on exploring what this development means. Is the younger generation responding to the bleak cultural climate in this country? Or are we witnessing a new and inventive broadening of the performing arts?’
Potential for development in de Theaterschool?
‘In recent years, de Theaterschool has taken full advantage of the opportunities offered by cross-faculty research groups. This has led to a large number of research projects by teachers, doctoral studies and RAAK projects [Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences funding scheme for practice-based research]. Long-term research investments have been made into transcultural dance didactics and dance health, for example, as well as into the history of the SNDO and Mime departments. As practice-based professor at the Artist in Residence programme, I had opportunities to stimulate many activities without immediately identifying to what extent these were concerned with actual research. The first concern of study programmes is to keep in touch with current artistic developments. This kind of programme can ultimately lead to research projects, and it has in fact already happened. De Theaterschool is justifiably proud of all these initiatives. One of the first things I want to do in my position as professor here is to bring broader attention to aspects of the school’s research culture that’s not visible to everyone. I aim to link existing expertise to future prospects for research. This will serve as the basis from which a central school policy should evolve.’
Dynamic meeting place
‘I’ve taken on this role with a great deal of pleasure and enthusiasm, not least because de Theaterschool is currently at a very exciting phase in its development. I’ll be playing a very active part in exploring the potential for what’s known as a ‘dynamic meeting place’. Right now, it’s just an intention, an abstract topic, but we already know that the artistic directors feel the need for some kind of open-ended, flexible platform that we can use alongside and in combination with the school’s new collaborative initiatives. It would provide a base for embarking on extraordinary activities, addressing particular themes, and identifying new developments. It should also allow for a variety of ways of working as well as experimental education, debate with the professional field, and research activities. De Theaterschool wants to bring external guests, students and teachers into contact with each other here, and cut across all the disciplines. Perhaps there’ll be a kind of editorial team who’ll organize the actual contents or programming of the space. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The best way is for it to grow collectively, in an organic way.’
‘I find it so interesting to be joining de Theaterschool in the current situation. Conditions are changing all around us, and lots of things are destined to disappear. In my view, the various stakeholders in education, research and practice need to think about how we can preserve discipline-related expertise and develop it further. Our priority is finding ways to ensure that the next generation will also get the chance to discover everything that the Dutch performing arts have to offer. This is a key task facing research at de Theaterschool. Currently, there are hardly any professors in the field of dance and theatre in the Netherlands, because the production houses had a strong creative structure for talent development, with particular focus on practice-based research. In the coming four years, together with artistic directors and teachers I’ll be examining in detail what action our fellow educational institutions are taking. We need to think about how we want to present ourselves and come to agreements on these matters with them at a national level. We should also allow ourselves to be inspired by international models, which are often cross-institutional. Ideally, we’d even look beyond the new structure of de Theaterschool. This will also help me determine my position in the larger scheme of things. I see the next four years as an active project period in which we’ll draw up plans and carry out trial runs. At the same time, I’ll be laying the foundations for a sustainable research environment at de Theaterschool that will ultimately be programmed and run by other people. Our guiding principles will continue to be to give research and development a prominent place in our collaboration with the professional field, and to consolidate and strengthen the notion of de Theaterschool as a learning community, as a place where national and international students and professionals can come together to inspire one another.