Creating a Van Gogh ballet was a labour of love for Dutch choreographer

While many creative people leave Perth to pursue opportunities abroad, for Dutch choreographer Wubkje Kuindersma, it was where she was given an offer too good to refuse. 

In 2020, The Young Creative Associate at Dutch National Opera and Ballet presented her now award-winning Architecture of Hope as part of West Australian Ballet’s performance at the Quarry. 

It was clearly a favourite with artistic director Aurélien Scannella, who made Kuindersma a proposition – to choreograph her first full-length work. 

“When I was creating Architecture of Hope, he (Scannella) asked me, ‘what would you do if you could create a full-length ballet?’,” Kuindersma recalls. 

“I proposed to create a ballet on Vincent van Gogh…and he (Scannella) loved the idea.” 

Three years later, Kuindersma has returned to Perth to stage Echoes of Van Gogh, a world premiere with West Australian Ballet which is playing now. 

“I am thrilled to create a ballet on van Gogh; a lonely soul and genius artist, striving for hope and connection through his art,” Kuindersma says.  

Even more than 130 years after van Gogh’s death, his story resonates with people all over the world on a deeply personal level. 

Kuindersma recognised this from a young age while growing up in the Netherlands. She says many of the themes she explores in her previous works, like grappling with identity, human connection and feeling like an outsider are all coming together in Echoes of Van

The ballet is not a straight biography, instead it takes inspiration from the post-impressionist painter’s artworks and his life, merging the two together through dance, set, music and costumes, for which Kuindersma has called on the expertise of fellow Dutch creatives Anthony Fiumara, who composed the score especially for the work, set, video and costume designer Tatyana van Walsum, and dramaturge and librettist Janine Brogt, along with Australian-based lighting designer Jon Buswell. 

“We want to bring his paintings to life,” Kuindersma says. 

“What I love about his paintings is the movement. You feel the physicality of the paint, the energy, the emotion.” 

In order to capture the expression of the artist’s hand and Kuindersma’s vision, West Australian Ballet have undertaken one of their most ambitious builds yet – the construction of a large curved screen which will have van Gogh’s paintings projected onto it. 

The dancers will move through the projections further blurring the distinction between the man and the master. 

Kuindersma has now been in the studio at West Australian Ballet for more than a month and says seeing the dancers bring their own voice to her work has been incredibly rewarding. 

“I was dreaming and visualising this ballet,” Kuindersma says. “And it’s coming true now.” 

“I really believe in the presence of the dancer in the performance, their personality and them shining, because it’s a live art.” 

West Australian Ballet performs the world premiere of Echoes of Van Gogh live at His Majesty’s Theatre with West Australian Symphony Orchestra from September 8 – 23. Tickets from