Ted Brandsen
Ted Brandsen | Photo: Altin Kaftira

A celebration of dance, music and zest for life

14 September 2023

Ted Brandsen on The Chairman Dances

The Chairman Dances, by choreographer and artistic director Ted Brandsen was actually supposed to premiere a year ago, as part of the programme planned to open the season, Celebrate. But things turned out differently. The war in Ukraine broke out and Brandsen decided that a festive programme was no longer appropriate, and neither was the cheerful piece he had in mind for The Chairman Dances. So the title of the programme changed from Celebrate to Shadows and The Chairman Dances made way for Kurt Jooss’ The Green Table. Brandsen says, “Unfortunately, that terrible war is still ongoing. But that makes it especially important to reflect on the strength of the people who, even in the most difficult of circumstances, manage to find hope and carry on with their lives. You could see The Chairman Dances as a celebration of that strength and zest for life, and also of the joy that dance and music can bring us. I hope to be able to give the audience a bit of that feeling.”

Foxtrot for Orchestra

For The Chairman Dances, Brandsen took the music of the same name by the American composer John Adams as his starting point. The composition was originally created for Adams' opera Nixon in China, but it has now been used by many choreographers as a stand-alone piece of music. Brandsen says, “And it really is dance music. There’s good reason that the subtitle is ‘Foxtrot for Orchestra’; a reference to ballroom dancing.” This nod to ballroom dancing is reflected, in turn, in Brandsen’s choreography; a piece for ensemble, from which individuals break free now and then. “It’s as if they dance for a moment in the spotlight, like in ballroom dancing, and the others make room for them.”


Enormous momentum

The compelling character of Adams’ composition is reflected both in the choreography and in the costume and lighting designs. “The music is very inspiring. I already used it in 1998, to choreograph an occasional piece for West Australian Ballet. The composition still really appeals to me, partly for its enormous momentum. That verve is also displayed in the costumes by François-Noël Cherpin, who has been designing the costumes for all my ballets since 1990, and the colourful lighting designs by Wijnand van der Horst.

Text: Rosalie Overing

  • Four Temperaments will be performed at Dutch National Ballet from 16 September to 30 September 2023