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From performer to PR: Dutch dancer does digital

Maarten Krijger returns to Folkmoot this year, performing an altogether different type of work. Cory Vaillancourt photo Maarten Krijger returns to Folkmoot this year, performing an altogether different type of work. Cory Vaillancourt photo

Now in its 35th year, the Folkmoot Festival has been around 11 years longer than Maarten Krijger has been alive, but it doesn’t take 35 years of experience with the annual event to understand what has to happen in the next 35. 

“People need to get interested who are not 50 or older,” said Krijger, a Dutchman who hails from Tilburg, in the southern part of the Netherlands near the Belgian border. 

Krijger studies musical theater, and appeared at Folkmoot as a performer last year with the Dutch group Paloina Amsterdam, but it’s not dance that’s brought him back this year — he also works in public relations.

“Working in PR in America and the Netherlands is very, very different, because in the Netherlands you don’t need to do much,” he laughed. “You just need to inform them and they will get enthusiastic automatically. In America there’s way more information being flung at you every day. I mean, we have kind of a quiet life next to you all.”

In saturated North American media markets — including on social media channels — content must be engaging, interesting and, according to Krijger, enthusiastic. 

With that in mind, he’s returned this year to help with the festival by documenting it from the unique dual perspectives of a performer who knows what it’s really like, and a PR professional who knows what the public really wants to see. 

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“I’m interviewing people for a series that I’m going to start soon on social media which will probably be called ‘Humans of Folkmoot,’” he said. “It will be quite personal interviews, and will also obviously be about culture, because behind every dancer is a person and I think it’s important to highlight that.”

Krijger said he’s been to many festivals, but “fell in love” with Folkmoot last year, which led to his return; there are a number of things he says make this particular festival special. 

“They really take care of the dancers as well as the audience. Dancers need to be happy — at least as happy as the audience, which I think is a good thing, because most festivals tend to forget the dancers,” he said. “They’re like, ‘OK, you can be in a bus for 27 hours and then you’ll perform for an hour and then we’ll ride 27 hours back,’ which is not actually a good thing.”

Most of that, he said, comes down to scheduling and staffing. 

“I don’t think people know how many people are here and how good they are at what they’re doing. That’s what I’m trying to highlight a little bit,” he said. “It’s because it’s entirely run by volunteers, because everybody here is absolutely happy and delighted to be here and when you work with professionals they’re like, “Ehhhh, it’s just my job. Just go.”

On that note, Krijger himself is a volunteer; he’s staying at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Hazelwood along with the rest of the performers, but all on his own dime — including the $700 flight. If he has his way, this won’t be the last time. 

“It takes a lot of time,” he said of the two-week festival. “A 20 hour flight here, and 20 hours back, it’s kind of exhausting. This is a six-hour time difference. But if it were up to me and if I have the money and the opportunity to go again I would. Definitely.”

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