Rudi van Dantzig (1933) asks if I would like to come to the kitchen. Because coffee is made here in the old-fashioned way. So it can take a while. He talks about a malignant tumor that was discovered in him this year. He doesn't get it. Does not smoke, eat healthy, nevertheless cancer. "But I can bake in the sun for up to three hours, which seems to be very bad." A stain has been removed that has been there all his life, and lymph nodes near the armpit. He is being closely monitored for the time being.
Are you shocked?
`On the one hand I thought: it is not possible, it is not so bad; on the other hand: this can turn out to be ugly. What really shocked me was that the doctors said absolutely nothing that came close to: "Well, Mr. Van Dantzig, don't worry." And I was afraid to ask about it, I just said, "You can tell me everything, I can handle that." Which is not true at all. I have also plotted the blackest scenario. That was confronting. There was no fear of death, but there was a trial there. The deterioration, even without illness, I fear terribly. My father turned eighty-seven, at the end he said, "I would like to be one hundred, do you think I will make it?" While I sometimes already think: it doesn't have to be that long for me. '
To be ahead of the decline?
`I think so. The gay world can be lonely, yes, staggering. Lesbian women have that encircling each other, men are much more dependent on appearance. Rudolf could furiously say to me if he had been to the sauna in the Netherlands: "They just ignore me here!" "
Rudolf Noerejev was a beautiful man, wasn't he?
`I never liked him so much, he never attracted me sexually. That is why the friendship probably also lasted a long time. But it is also the dance world that is confronting; always with young people, always in front of the mirror ... It's double. It is an outer box, there is a lot of empty vanity, it also has an enormous depth: it is dismantling, it is laying bare, at the same time it conceals that naked nudity, there is that desire for beauty and sublimation. The mystery of life. Gertjan, my friend, says: "I have never met so many people who are so insecure about themselves, about their performance, about how they look, as in the dance world." It is also like that. We will always vigorously criticize or bring ourselves down.
Gertjan and I have known each other for ten years. He's forty-three. A poetic, strong man who is nevertheless shaky in life. A true sculptor. When he comes to me, I am often tense. Because I have the feeling that I live beyond my means during those days. I don't want to be an old man. He notices that. "It's not necessary," he says, "I don't mind getting older at all." Unbelievable, because it does play for me, I am very fond of beauty.
Gertjan is shockingly loyal. I also want it to be for him, but for me it is a challenge. I've always had my whim. If I go somewhere to study a ballet, there must be someone for whom I do it, with whom I feel emotional contact, someone who makes sense of my stay. But I'm also talking about the boy who works here in the side street at the post office. A nice boy, he's been there for years. One day I said, "I'm glad you're here, I like to see you when I come here." That must be possible, if there has been a kind of pleasant feeling for years? Now, when we see each other, we say a little more to each other than "Twenty stamps of eighty" and "Thank you". He says that he is renovating his house and asks how I am doing. "
You turned sixty-five this month. How did you spend the day?
`Usually sixty-five is unpacking, but I haven't seen anyone. Gertjan had just returned home, to Zeeland, Toer (van Schayk) was incredibly busy and my brother had forgotten it. But birthdays never meant anything to me. As a child, it was always my birthday during the holidays and I was happy with that. Then I didn't have to hand out, no song was sung to me, I didn't have to be the center of attention. There was a group that always teased me, scolded me, beat me up. They felt, I think, that I was different. I didn't belong and at one point I didn't want to belong anymore. "
Can you imagine, sixty-five?
I'm surprised: sixty-five, is that me? Sometimes I'm ashamed of it. Nobody almost believes it. I sometimes lie about my age to avoid the usual reactions - `What? Sixty-five? "Certainly abroad, because they must think there: what would you have been a lice if you look like this."
Has Hans van Manen not even commented on that? "If you care about the fate of the world, you don't look like that at that age" - something like that.
`Yes, and he's kind of right. I have optimistic, sunny sides. I can enjoy immensely, I find every meeting an adventure. I have my eyes open well, see people, faces, often see clearly what those people are like, how they think, what happened to them. '
But there is also a melancholy side.
`I have often felt depression. But I suppressed them. I knew how upset my parents were, and also Toer, with whom I lived together. I didn't want to do that to them anymore. When I felt it coming, I resisted it. People say that oppression is not good, but it has been for me. I find it terrible to burden others with it. Gertjan can sometimes be so gloomy and silent, I told him this summer: "You can be so closed that I wonder: what am I doing here?" The last time I was depressed and would rather not be there was when the war started in Yugoslavia. That mess has dealt with me enormously. '
`When you were naked and naked, the piece that you wrote for De Appel theater group and which you also directed, is about a group of people who may or may not have started a new society on a bare platform to be. If things go wrong there too, they choose someone from their midst who they think will be their savior. Do you believe in a redemption?
`People cannot redeem each other. Everyone on that island has brought their own stuff and keeps raking around in it. Everyone remains a loner, a family is not a family. It will not become a unit. They try, by pointing someone out, "You can do it, you can save us." But they have to do it themselves. We cannot redeem each other, but we can keep each other well together, right? A good life, a reasonable life, that is the redemption. "
How do you approach that in your own life?
`I try to approach people as if they are friends. But the fact that I often separate myself indicates that I don't find that easy. "
Has this combination resulted: the intense interaction as a choreographer with your dancers and your complete seclusion as a writer?
`Yes, I need that change. Although I find writing terribly lonely. I wrote that piece for three months; that lonely sitting, the silence - sometimes it just made me feel dizzy, I ran on my legs when I went to get something to eat. "
What a discipline!
"It's uncertainty rather than discipline: I don't have to be distracted, because then I can't do anything anymore."
You warn your friends to stay away?
`There aren't many that I have to warn, I am mainly a loner. I like that working abroad, that I meet people who I know will be spending a month, two months with them, intensively and happily, but after that we will only call or write, but we will occasionally see each other. For twenty years I have led the Dutch National Ballet artistically, until 1991. Even now, when the group is on vacation, I think: gosh, they are on vacation, I can't be called, I have a moment's rest. What madness! '
Is that also the reason why you no longer live together?
"I find it hard when I am with someone to say," You do this and I do something completely different "- boom, shut the door, and then work. If I have a daily relationship, I get creative to little. "
It is good that you may never have had children, although you have shown yourself sad about that.
`Well, sad ... It was a kind of puzzle in my head. See a creature grow up and give something - I think it's a loss. "
Have you ever considered the possibility of a surrogate mother?
`To make a child because I want it so badly? No, a child must come from a harmony between two people. Otherwise it soon gets something selfish. Moreover, there are so many weird features that I would not like to pass on. My brother's daughter has an awful lot of Van Dantzig edges; she doesn't spend much time with other children, no school parties, no school trips ... Oh God, I sometimes think, as long as she doesn't get a life like my brother and me. My father was also strong, withdrawn. That made him very unreasonable. He was not used to getting along with other people, getting contradictory. "Daddy," I said when we talked about Russia, for example, "you see it wrong, it is not there as you think it is." Then he became completely upset. Because he had always believed in socialism and Russia, that should not be altered. I can do it myself too badly, stand up for myself, defend my own things. I was alone for a long time, I was ten when my brother was born. If we had grown up closer together, I might have learned to share life better. "
Surely you must have had hair on your teeth to achieve what you have achieved? Or is talent only sufficient?
`I don't think I have that much talent. I'm usury. And furthermore I came by being friendly, by making friendships. That is actually my tactic. I think - I only thought about that later, you know - that I learned that in the war, in Friesland, where I was housed with a family. Because of the forbidden friendship with a soldier I had started a strange double life, I thought: if only I am nice and it will come out later, I may not be expelled. "
When you think of your 'lost soldier', was the experience worthwhile, or do you think it should never have happened and should he have kept his hands at home?
That cannot be answered. I don't know what I would have been like without that experience. The event itself had beautiful, fascinating, but also very lonely, wry sides. I had the feeling ... For me he too was very alone, we were both alone and not in our own place. He was just looking for something like me. Yes, I clung terribly to his person and also to his physicality. The anxiety dreams that I got after that and kept for a long time and sometimes still have had nothing to do with him, but with the consequences of that friendship; with the fear of discovering what I had experienced with him and how it was inside me. They were nightmares in which buildings and worlds collapsed. "
He will now be in his early seventies. Do you ever play with the idea of tracking him down?
`I'll let it rest. The mood here about relationships between adults and children is not good yet, but in Canada and America people are being driven from where they live. You absolutely can't do that to anyone. I have bought a lot of war books, looked at the faces on the photos: imagine ... Because of that many looks, his face may have changed so much in my head that I would not even recognize him anymore. For me, Gertjan comes closest to the soldier, to the feeling that he gave me. I told him, he didn't like it. He doesn't want to be compared, doesn't want to be a surrogate for someone else. I was shocked by that. I meant it as an expression of love. I said, "But you give me that stuff ..."
You have never made someone part of your history with the soldier, not even Toer. Until your book appeared. Why?
`I don't know. Perhaps if Toer had asked - because I often had nightmares in those days. But there was an embarrassment between us to talk about intimate matters. Perhaps that's why we didn't succeed either. But not much was said after the book either. No one in my area, not even my father - my mother had already died. So it will also be up to me. Perhaps I am afraid of being sentimental, afraid of expecting understanding or sympathy.
I miss a certain kind of intellect. That has always bothered me. I mainly float on my emotions, I lack more depth and wisdom. I have sometimes wondered whether my father played a role in this. He was impatient and also a bit intolerant. If something didn't work out, he would soon say, "Let me do it then." He thought I was a bit of a fool, I think. I felt indebted to my parents, because I know they had a lot to spare for me. They were not wide, but they did everything to help me. I like to show them that I was doing well. But nothing has ever been said. She, my brother and I, we formed four islands. A great silence has remained between us. "