Actually, a ballet studio is just like a gym – down to the customary strip lighting and sweaty fug. And the backstage areas are just bare concrete. So why on earth have we chosen these totally unattractive places to hold the annual Dutch National Ballet business dinner? For the past five years, this dinner has been held on the stage of The Amsterdam Music Theatre. Now there’s a great spot! No wonder the dinner was a huge success. But should we really have asked companies to buy a table this time, if they have to eat in the ugliest spot in the theatre?
Eleven companies have bought a table for the dinner. Some of them have attended previous editions of the event, and such loyal sponsors deserve a wonderful evening once again. But new companies have also bought a table, and we hope that they’ll be so impressed that they’ll come next year too, or maybe even consider increasing their sponsorship. So we can’t afford to get it wrong. But this time, the stage is not available to us, as there is no space in the schedule of this crazily busy season. For a moment, we even considered not holding the dinner at all. But that would have been an admission of weakness.
So we decided to make a virtue of necessity.
If we can’t have dinner in the most beautiful spot in the building, then we’ll do so in the ugliest spot. Not on stage, but backstage. Not where the magic of theatre usually takes place, but where the hard, raw work is done every day in order to produce that magic.
With this in mind, we create a totally different business dinner to the five previous editions. This time, we‘ll take the guests to different rehearsal studios, where we’ve never been before, and they can watch performances there. Dinner will be served at long tables where the scenery is usually unloaded and constructed. And they can watch the fourth act of Swan Lake, which is something new, as the dinners on stage only had room for pas de deux. So the date for the dinner coincides with a performance of Swan Lake. The guests will have dinner backstage during the performance, then sit in the auditorium with the rest of the audience to watch Act 4, and then have a final drink with the dancers on stage after the performance.
That’s how we’re going to do it. Different to usual, but just as special.
But as the date of 3 November 2011 approaches, a few doubts arise. Will the programme be special enough? Can we actually make something of those ballet studios? Can we create an atmosphere in that concrete area? What will the bankers and managers think of having dinner there? Doesn’t the programme finish much too late? And is it really feasible just to watch Act 4 on its own?
Yes, it really is feasible! It seems our guests think it’s wonderful. And how incredibly beautiful that studio and that concrete area turned out to be! Our technicians worked magic with light and space and transformed it into a spectacular place to eat. The caterer laid on good food and a beautiful table arrangement. Olga created a wonderful atmosphere with her piano playing. During the meal, dancers and extras paraded past to loud applause from the guests. In the studios, everyone is so close to the dancers that the performances have a huge impact. And at the end of the evening, everyone is dazzled by the stage and by the swans and principals who mingle with the guests.
When the last guests leave for home, it’s almost midnight.
“The best edition ever”, think a proud Wim and Rita Kok, who have been to all the previous business dinners. “What a wonderful evening we’ve had”, says the Mayor, who announces that he’s already planning to bring his children to see Nutcracker. “We go to loads of corporate events, but this beats everything”, says the host of one of the new companies. “We’ll be here next year as well”, he tells us as he leaves.
Making a virtue of necessity – nothing wrong with that!
(Although you do need good people to put their shoulder to the wheel. And once again we’ve proved we have those good people).< blog archive