How it all started

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In the 1971/72 season the Dutch dance world still had an uncomplicated structure. There were two large companies, Het Nationale Ballet and the Nederlands Dans Theater, and there was a special company aimed at young people: the Scapino Ballet. In addition there were a number of initiatives, mostly situated in the Randstad (the conurbation including Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam in the west of the Netherlands). This meant that hardly any dance performances were to be seen in the east of the country, let alone that dancers could develop professionally there.

At this time Ton Wiggers attended the Arnhem Dance Academy, studying in the departments for stage dance and for dance teaching. On completing their studies many students left for the Randstad due to a lack of dance employment in the region. Ton Wiggers recognized that the absence of an eastern dance facility created a major gap. Together with Hans Focking, who had his own theatre agency in Arnhem, he set up the ballet working group Studio L.P. in 1971, the forerunner of Introdans.
The aim was clear right from the start: “The goal of the ballet group is to bring ballet, in the broadest sense of the term, to the attention of the largest possible public. In this respect the group aims primarily at its own region, namely the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel.” This quote is taken from the group’s deed of formation.

The company received no grant. The Municipality of Arnhem did not believe that the region needed a dance company of its own and had no money to spare for this. In order to finance the performances Wiggers gave ballet lessons for amateurs. In the 1970s the group mainly performed educational shows at schools.
Slowly the number of theatre performances grew. In the early years the dancers were paid per performance (60 guilders per show) and so they all needed another job in order to support themselves. Following a lot of lobby work and proven viability, from 1 January 1979 onwards the group started receiving project grants from the Municipality of Arnhem, the regional governments of Gelderland and Overijssel and the Dutch state, and the municipality allocated the group larger premises. The name was changed to Intro-Dans, derived from ‘introduction to dance’.

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Recognition at last

Up to this time Ton Wiggers had, out of necessity, made almost all the choreographies himself. The group still had no structural grant and due to the dependence on project grants the continued existence of the group was still uncertain. This also means that the company was still unable to adopt professional status. In 1980 Hans Focking and Ton Wiggers wrote a policy note in which they threatened to dissolve the company. Ultimately funds were indeed made available and suddenly the story accelerated.

From the moment that more money was available Ton Wiggers decided to employ guest choreographers. He considered outside influence to be particularly valuable for the artistic development of the dancers and of the company as a whole. Nils Christe, Ed Wubbe, Hans Tuerlings and Hlif Svavarsdottir were a few names from the period at the start of the 1980s. Their successful choreographies showed the world that Intro-Dans was taking an increasingly important place amid the longer-established companies.

Intro-Dans also received artistic recognition. In 1984 the group received the Theatre Critics’ Award for the innovative role it was playing within the Dutch ballet scene. A year later the company moved to better premises: the current buildings on the Vijfzinnenstraat. From now on the name was written as Introdans.

Growth and chance

The growth of the theatre performances and of educational activities, all carried out by the same dancers, was increasingly leading to problems. Overworking and injuries were the consequence. In 1980 Hans Focking and Ton Wiggers decided to set up Introdans Educative, an independent Introdans department with its own dancers, its own choreographies and its own artistic director: Roel Voorintholt, who at that time had been employed as a dancer for six years. Over the last ten years Introdans Educative, later renamed Introdans Ensemble for Youth, has undergone a process of professionalisation comparable to the Introdans mother ensemble.
Thanks to an admirable constancy, renowned choreographers were willing to make existing works available to children or to create new works specially for children; these choreographers include Conny Janssen, Jirí Kylián, Hans van Manen, Nacho Duato and David Parsons.

Introdans now has a special education department: Introdans Interaction. Every year specialist dance teachers provide hundreds of workshops, participatory lessons and projects at schools, in theatres in the Netherlands and abroad and for special target groups.

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Introdans today

Since 1971 the essence of the policy has remained unchanged. Introdans wants to present a wide public, situated especially but by no means exclusively in its own region, with work by both up-and-coming and established choreographers; through both theatre performances and educational activities. This approach is bearing fruit: Introdans is a success and this success has long transcended the regional boundaries. This makes it a unique company in Europe: the first company to bring professional, high-quality shows for both adults and children.

Introdans is also increasingly building its international status. To give one example, Introdans was the first foreign ballet company to appear on the new stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In 2003 both ensembles and Introdans Interaction were in South Korea to give performances and carry out projects. Other highlights of the Introdans history are the appearances of Introdans on Broadway- New York in 2001 and 2005. But European venues and our neighbouring countries are not neglected either.

Introdans is now a flourishing company with over 70 employees. The directors are Roel Voorintholt (artistic director) and Ton Wiggers (general director). The tightly-knit ensemble is accommodated in the centre of Arnhem and is now one of the three biggest dance companies in the Netherlands. The current grant providers are the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the regional governments of Gelderland and Overijssel and the Municipality of Arnhem. In addition, many sponsors provide financial support for the company’s activities.