joost about joost_

I am the 3rd born child in a family of total 4 children. My mother was a nurse and my father professor mathematics. As a young born creature, it took me two years before I would start walking. The doctors hypothesized a malfunction in my motor skills, but the opposite became reality; once I started to walk, I was unstoppable: walking, running and playing around formed the pillars of my universe. My abundance in curiosity was set free and became the adagium of my further life, following me like my own shadow. 

[ From left to right: older sister Meike, grandmother Mia, brother Bram, mother Margo, Joost and father Huub ]

[ port of Rotterdam in 1981, left to right: sister, grandmother, brother, mother and father. My youngest sister was not yet born ]

I grew up in the most southern region of the Netherlands where the country joints together in one point with Germany and Belgium. This specific region is known for a prosperous country side, rapidly developing urbanization and bountiful cultural landscape of both traditional heritage and innovative creative industry. This blend of diverse contextual characteristics was of significant importance for my personal development and fostered a deep interest in combining and fusing what is conventionally seen as opposite, incompatible or considered binary. 

[ younger sister Loes and Joost ]

Due to epidural anesthesia interferences during my birth, I suffered from severe seizures later on and became very weak. To support the family, my grand mother decided to take care of me until I would be completely vital again. The time my grand mother and I spent together, effectuated a strong relation between the two of us. My grand mother -being a dedicated Christian- brought me to the many churches and chapels in the region. I was extremely fascinated by the ritual services, mesmerized each time I was visiting them. And also the mysticism and expressive architecture of these places added to this experience. I consider the encounters with those churches and chapels as my initiation into theater and performing arts and triggered an interest in spirituality. 

My parents exposed me to art forms and creative practices; playing music, theater, circus, visiting museums and exhibitions, dance… I was attracted by it all, but became particularly interested in activities which explicitly focus on movement and the body. At the age of ten, I started my first ballet classes. Being able to commit myself to an art which facilitates expressing throughout the body, was crucial for the outset of my artistic life. The hard disciplined approach and the possibility to reach skills of steering the body beyond conventional boundaries were appealing to me and lay the foundation for me to always pursue and conduct a persistent working ethic. Music, gestural coding, narratives, dramaturgy and aesthetic sense fostered a deep longing for artistic, expressive and creative endeavor in my being.

[ Joost's first stage appearance at Stadsscouwburg Heerlen, 1989 ]

Throughout my adolescence I filled all my 'after-school-time' by taking classes in different dance approaches, styles and technics. I was always eager in combining the different technics and styles. I actually sensed freedom in the unification of things; creating fusion between seemingly incompatible forms made me feel at my best. My search for bridging opposites deviated me towards an impossible two-folded aspiration; my mind was lacerated in the wish to either study as a surgeon, or a circus artist, preferably combing the two… Unfortunately an educational institution which offers the combination of the two profession didn’t exist. Instead,I decided to continue my dance inquiry at the Amsterdam University of the Arts, where I acquired honing and developing different performing technics and academic approaches in dance. In 2000 I successfully graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in dance.  

[ Joost and Maurice Béjart at the Béjart Ballet Lausanne in Switzerland, 2002

My life changed drastically when I travelled to Switzerland where I met choreographer Maurice Béjart who asked me to be part of the program of the École-Atelier Rudra Béjart in Lausanne as a post-graduate student. Initially planning to stay for three months, instead, I stayed for six years in Switzerland to study and work under the wings of the notorious choreographer. This period in Switzerland was paramount to my further artistic and personal life. Besides intensifying craftsmanship in dance and movement, I got initiated into Shakespearian theater, Commedia dell’Arte and Eastern Martial Arts. These practices magnified my interest in performativity, dramaturgy, scenography and scenic rituality. It inspired me to imagine and think about a more holistic approach in dance, beyond its own discipline. 

During my Swiss life, my search for spirituality got redeemed by the encounter of a qualified Buddhist master. Parallel to my dancing career, I studied for two years at Rabten Choëling, University of Tibetan Studies; a Buddhist monastery in Mont Pélerin in the mountains of Switzerland. These Buddhist studies planted the seed for the formalization of my urgency to display the dichotomy of the fragile, ephemeral nature of human existence and the victorious, celebrated aspect of our human capacities. Inspired by the combination of monastic community life of study with meditation and my artistic pursuit of dancing and choreographing, I decided to commit myself to choreography and the foundation of a dance company. 

[ Photo by David Peskens: Maïté Guérin and Joost on a frozen lake, 2018 ]

Together with dancer Maïté Guérin, whom I met while working with Béjart, we founded the GOTRA Dance company in The Netherlands in 2007.. For twelve years GOTRA was a steady haven for a pool of dancers, designers, composers and other creative collaborators to develop work with a focus on interdisciplinary dance projects in and outside of theaters, museums, site specific, events and festivals. The works ranged from experimental, intimate projects to large scale productions in collaboration with national and international institutions. The works we created within the myriad different settings and contexts over the years shaped me as an artist who embraces the unpredictable by deliberately placing myself outside the measurable measure and explicitly attempt to bridge the known with the unknown. The undercurrent and driving force of my work remains my fascination for the simultaneous fragile and virtuous aspect of human being in a complex world.

From 2018 until 2020 I engaged myself in the masters program COMMA at CODARTS University of the Arts in Rotterdam and Fontys University of Arts in Tilburg. I conducted a research on the relation between theater, anatomy and madness as a phenomenon of societal exclusion. In particular I designed and executed my research from the question: how are Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the human spine and the phenomenon of madness from the perspective of Michel Foucault’s History of Madness (1961) related in the production of choreography. This peculiar yet vast research has set the beginning of my methodology and over-arching vision in the making and developing of my work. Here, theatricality, anatomy and societal relevance are the three main pillars that function as the foundation for the fragile and virtuous human condition. 

[ Photo by David Peskens ]