Speech by Mayor Jan van Zanen at the opening of the Dutch Centre for Ukrainian Dancers, 31 May 2022


Ambassador Kononenko,

Mr Kylian,

Ms de Jongh,

Mr Bongertman,

And especially: dancers,


It’s wonderful that we can be here together today.

Together, for the official opening of the Dutch Centre for Ukrainian Dancers.

A heart-warming initiative set up by Igone de Jongh and Matthijs Bongertman.

I am very pleased that The Hague can contribute to this.

The shockwaves caused by the Russian invasion in Ukraine could, and still can, be felt in the streets of our city.

Seeing the images of the devastation and so much human suffering left many of us feeling helpless.

This, at least, is something concrete that we can do.

Therefore, esteemed dancers, on behalf of the entire municipal council, I would like to warmly welcome you all to The Hague.

And I hope that The Hague can offer you some solace and diversion in these times of sorrow and grief.

But above all, I hope you can draw strength from the fact that you can continue to practise your profession here: that of dance.

The world knows Ukraine as a land which has high regard for music and dance.

They are intrinsic to Ukraine’s cultural identity.

In these times, in which the freedom of Ukraine is literally under attack, that cultural identity has become all the more important.

As Ukraine’s dance ambassadors, The Hague is more than happy to provide you with a stage.

Not least, because The Hague is the international city of peace and justice.

The city which stands for the peaceful resolution of differences between states.

Apart from which, The Hague is renowned as a dance city.

With the Nederlands Dans Theater, made world famous by our honorary citizen, Jiri Kylian.

You, Mr Kylian, know from personal experience what it is like when your country is invaded, and you are forced to flee as tanks thunder through the streets.  *

How could it be other than through the Kylian Foundation that you are now so closely involved, heart and soul, with supporting these Ukrainian dancers.

The same applies to Rinus Sprong and his Dutch Don’t Dance Division:

the company that for more than 25 years now, has spread the name of The Hague all over the world as a dance city.

You too, Mr Sprong, are associated with the Dutch Centre for Ukrainian Dancers.

I, and many more, look forward to seeing the productions the Centre is planning.

Above all, however, I wish for you that one day you will be able to perform in your homeland, Ukraine, once again.

In peace, freedom and dignity.

For now, I wish you all the best and every success.

And remember, you can always count on us.


*In 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia