Because after an undoubtedly enjoyable sing-along number by De Toppers, Ajax still has to play a match against a Japanese club-whose-name-I’ve-forgotten-again. But first, Gordon has to get up again after his fall. Fortunately, he doesn’t appear to be hurt. Even better – he falls down again just for a joke. What a laugh! So Maiko’s entrance was a lot less spectacular than it would otherwise have been. I don’t think many people saw her come onto the pitch, as right at that moment Jan Smit was being interviewed by Humberto Tan. They are in full view on the big screens where they usually show the replays of the goals, and everyone’s looking to see what clothes Jan’s wearing today (white as well!) But I’m watching Maiko. She’s the reason I’m here.
The call came a week earlier on Sunday morning. Patrick. He’s in the car on his way to the Arena. Rush job. The mayor has got the idea there should be a benefit event for Japan in the Ajax stadium. But now someone has to think up how we can fill the stadium. Because people won’t get up off their sofas just to come and see a hastily organised match between Ajax and an unknown Japanese club. So the council has asked him to make a plan. Of course, some popular artists have to take part. But Patrick wouldn’t be Patrick if he didn’t also want to get some culture in there as well. He’s already talked Opera Zuid into doing something from Butterfly in kimonos. So now he’s asking me if we have anything Japanese.
When Patrick phones, I know that it’s serious and interesting. For years, he’s been the man who’s brought in if there’s something big and important to celebrate, such as the opening of the Hermitage museum or the festivities for the wedding of Prince Willem-Alexander. Patrick thinks big, creatively and out-of-the-box. His southern bonhomie means he gets on with everyone extremely well and his television past means he also understands how to make this sort of event into entertaining TV. Patrick gets things done that others can’t. And as an added bonus he likes dance and is a big fan of Hans van Manen. So it’s no coincidence that he calls regularly to ask whether we can take part in something. And we like to do so, as it has produced a lot of great projects and publicity for the Dutch National Ballet.
But do we have anything Japanese? I can’t think of any Japanese ballets offhand. I don’t actually think they exist. But I do know that we have Japanese dancers in the company. And they’d already told us they’d really like to do something for their homeland. That’s why I dared to promise Patrick right away on that Sunday morning that we’d take part. I just hoped and prayed that the dancers wouldn’t be away on holiday, as the benefit event was taking place during the company’s official spring break. And then the dancers always spread out all over the world to go and visit their families. But thank heavens Maiko hasn’t booked a holiday and is planning to stay in Amsterdam.
Just over a week later, she’s standing in her tutu next to the stage Patrick has had built on the centre spot, waiting till Jan Smit has explained to Humberto Tan why he’s supporting Japan. And then it’s time. She can go on stage. For a variation from La Bayadère that lasts barely two minutes. In the stadium, you can hardly see the little dancer on that huge pitch. And it’s all over before you know it. But that doesn’t matter. It comes across really well on television. And the next day, the newspapers Het Parool and De Volkskrant choose our Maiko, rather than De Toppers, Jamai, Xander de Buisonjé or Opera Zuid. It’s her photo that accompanies their report of the evening.
Later that evening, Ajax scores four goals against the Japanese club-whose-name-I’ve-forgotten-again. I can’t suppress the thought that the Dutch National Ballet has scored as well – with almost a million television viewers and tens of thousands of newspaper readers. But of course the most important thing is that we’ve been able to help Japan a little. And that gives us – and especially Maiko – a good feeling. Hopefully it will be many years now before another benefit event like that is needed. But Patrick is free to call again tomorrow for a happier occasion.