Korzo was Corso

In the Korzo club there's an exposition highlighting 40 years of Korzo. On this page you will find the English translation of the texts. 


About the Korzo-building

Back in the seventies, the now-Korzo building housed the cinema Corso Camera, a franchise that had locations in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. In 1979 the Corso Camera-cinema went bankrupt. The building stayed vacant until 1983, when squatters made it their home.


November 1983: squatters take the building

The building comes alive again in November 1983. The old Corso gets squatted! A group of artists and students – the K.S.A. (Katholieke Sociale Akademie – joined by fellow Hagenaars/Hagenezen from Theaterwerkplaats, Stichting Haagse Pop and Stichting Zeebelt make the old Corso come alive. They want to transform the empty lot into a vibrant place where creatives can experiment and ‘play’.

That’s quite a challenge considering the state of the building: there’s no gas, water or electricity (although there’s a quick solution to getting electricity, by illegally intercepting it from the neighbours). Various rooms and areas of the building aren’t even accessible because of piles of rubble.


February 1984: Corso becomes Korzo

In the three months after the squatting, the diverse group of squatters try to clean up and make the place presentable. There’s an official opening coming up: an opening manifestation called Corso wordt Korzo, where more then 30 artists and makers perform, with some local powerhouses like Alex d’Electrique, the Haagse slagwerkers and Brigitte Kaandorp.

There’s a lot of praise in the media for this opening manifestation. Local politicians aren’t too happy however: councilman Guido Halleen (party of CDA, responsible for policy on local culture) claims the squatting of the building ‘makes no sense’. Halleen suggests that the group of squatters should invest their energy in partnership with existing theatres in the Hague.


1984-1986: First years of the theatre

In those first years, Korzo operates under what the Dutch government calls ‘gedoogbeleid’. It’s not legal to exploit Korzo, but local government decides to tolerate Korzo for now. Financially this is a hard phase in the history of Korzo; there’s barely any money coming in. In spite of that, more than 100 events (with several homemade productions) see the light of day, thanks to a loyal group of volunteers.


January 1985: iceskating in de Grote Zaal

Korzo is unconventional in all of its actions. A great example is the creation of an ice skating rink in the winter of 1985. It’s a harsh winter, with temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius. Korzo still lacks central heating, so the temperature inside the building isn’t very different from outside.

That inspires the Korzo-squatters to create an ice rink in the Grote Zaal. This crazy plan starts with large amounts of agricultural plastic to cover the floor and ends with everyone taking night shifts, to make sure that the future ice rink is filled with water completely. It takes a few days and nights, but the crazy plan succeeds: an actual ice rink in Korzo! That makes for a few joyful days of ice skating, with ‘koek & zopie’ (drinks and snacks) included.

The plan hasn’t really been thought through: pretty soon the Grote Zaal needs to be prepared for an actual show again. It’s still freezing cold, so there’s only one option: to get rid of the ice in the hardest way possible. Everyone joins in to slash the ice with pickaxes, a task that takes ages. The courtyard is filled with big blocks of ice for two months to come, a reminder of a fun time.




May 1986: the ‘9 mei-effekt’

May 1986 marks a turning point in the history of Korzo. There’s a new wind blowing in local politics: left-wing parties have won the election and with Jack Verduyn Lunel (of the party Links Den Haag) there’s a new councilman on cultural policy. He speaks at Korzo’s 2,5 anniversary party to announce that the local government is offering Korzo two million gulden (the then Dutch currency) to renovate the Korzo-building. Korzo is no longer tolerated, but acknowledged. The original Korzo-squatters call this ‘het 9 mei-effekt’.

The renovation takes over more than a year. The balcony in the Grote Zaal is in such a poor state that it has to be demolished completely. But there’s a lot more that doesn’t survive: only the foundation and the casco of the building remain. The renovation is completed in September 1988. The Korzianen (as they call themselves) can now start to furnish their theatre.


1987: Leo Spreksel, the first dance programmer

During the big renovation, Korzo houses in a small gym at the Bezemstraat. But when the building is completely renovated and ready to go, it’s full steam ahead again. The dance sector in the Netherlands is growing and blossoming at that time. Korzo decides to go and look for a dance programmer, a vacancy that they don’t really have a budget for. Leo Spreksel turns out to be the best candidate, with his knowledge of the sector, his big network and the vision on Korzo as a theatre and later production house.

Korzo creates an unique position for itself in the Hague. Bernadette Stokvis programs mime-performances, Hans Hersbach knows all about music and Leo Spreksel programs dance. Later, in 1993, Leo and Bernadette become the artistic and business director of Korzo.






1992: First CaDance Festival at Korzo

Korzo distinguished itself in the 1990s with – among other things –  the inaugural CaDance festival, an event that was founded in 1987 by Theater aan het Spui – then named Theater aan de Haven – which revolved around showing the best theater and dance performances of the year. Korzo was asked to take over the event because of its dance expertise.The theater was also asked to contribute to the festival, but dance programmer Leo Spreksel saw little point in repeating performances from the past season. Spreksel’s goal was to show new and exciting productions, an ambition that turned out to be a success for both CaDance and Korzo. After two years of steadfast collaboration, Korzo took over the entire festival in 1992. In the 1990s, CaDance became one of The Hague’s beloved staple festivals, contributing immensely to the growth of Korzo.


1993: Four Steps Forward

Offering a launchpad for upcoming talent is already firmly part of Korzo’s DNA back then. Leo Spreksel decides there has to be a programme to support starting choreographers and starts with Four Steps Forward, specifically aimed to highlight the work of makers from The Hague. The Hague is turning more and more into a city of dance at that point.

The concept of Four Steps Forward – one night with various pieces by talented choreographers like Dylan Newcomb, Keith Derrich Randolph and Thom Stuart – remains a staple in the Korzo-programme throughout the years. The programma later on morphs into Voorjaarsontwaken during spring, with six shows in the Kerkstudio and the Grote Zaal. The past few years, we programmed Here we live and now in December, with three brand new pieces by talented choreographers.


1999: 15th birthday and the opening of a new studio

Korzo reaches ‘adulthood’ in 1999, as the Haagsche Courant writes. An old reformed church has been part of the Korzo-building for some years now, housing Jeugdtheater and theatreschool Rabarber. When they both decide to leave, Leo and Bernadette see an opportunity to expand Korzo. And so it happens: the church is purchased and after a big renovation, the new studio of Korzo opens its doors in 1999.

The opening of the studio is a festive moment, since Korzo is also celebrating its 15th birthday. The complete building of Korzo is in use during the anniversary programme Korzo op de Kaart, with dance, music, performances and performative arts. A night that shows a lot of promise on how Korzo will programme the years to come.




Korzo makers in the nineties  

Various makers and choreographers who rose to fame, started out at Korzo in the nineties. Some names you might know:


Paul Selwyn Norton
The life of a dancer and choreographer led Paul Selwyn Norton (1964) to the edges of the earth. As a dancer he worked with renowned companies like Ballet Frankfurt and Batsheva Dance Company. Currently, he plays an important role in the Australian dance sector as the artistic director of FORM Dance Projects. Paul is a self-taught dancer and choreographer and made his debut in Korzo with Johnny Panic (1992). That was the start of an extensive collaboration, resulting in shows like Pork (1994), The Rogue Tool (1996), The Gradual Instant (1999) and Luxury Item (2003).


Thom Stuart
If you know anything about dance in the Netherlands, then you must be familiar with De Dutch Don’t Dance Division. This company was founded in 1996 by Thom Stuart (1966) and his partner Rinus Sprong. It’s one of Thoms biggest achievements in a career filled with success as a dancer and a choreographer. He danced with Introdans, Scapino Ballet, Feld Ballets New York, created more than 80 works as a choreographer and won several prizes during his career. In the nineties, Thom created various pieces for Korzo, with highlights like Gray Matter (1992), Ferrous (1997) and Vlucht over Den Haag (1999).


Anouk van Dijk
Anouk van Dijk (1965) is a dancer, choreographer and arts director who not only had a career in Europe, but also Australia. She founded her own company with anoukvandijkdc and created a moving method called Countertechnique. Anouk created her first work as choreographer for Korzo in 1994 with Hart Kwink Moker, a piece she performed herself with Daniela Graca and Nicole Peisl. Later on she toured the Netherlands with various works and made an international name for herself as artistic director for Chunky Move in Melbourne.


Emio Greco & Pieter C. Scholten
ICK Dans Amsterdam is an influential platform for dance in the Netherlands and was founded by Italian dancer and choreographer Emio Greco and the Dutch choreographer Pieter C. Scholten. The form a duo since 1995 and most of their early work was created and performed in Korzo. Their debut as duo – Bianco (1995) – premiered at CaDance 1996 and later on they created the pieces Rosso (1997), Double Point: Two (1998) and Double Points: Three (nero) (2000) for Korzo.


Nanine Linning
Nanine Linning (1977) not only has a good rep in the Netherlands, but was successful in Germany as well. She earned her stripes as house choreographer for Scapino Ballet Rotterdam and left the Netherlands to work as an artistic director for Dance Company Theater Osnabrück and Theater Heidelberg. Nanine got her start at Korzo: after graduating from the Rotterdamse Dansacademie, she created her first piece Tribeca (1998) and Solo Version 5.0 (2000) with help from Korzo. In 2024 she’ll return to the Netherlands and the Scapino Ballet as artistic director.


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