Jan Ritsema (born in the Netherlands in 1945) has directed for a wide variety of Dutch, and Belgian theatre companies like Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Het Werkteater, Het Nationale Toneel, Mug met de gouden Tand, 'tBarre Land, Maatschappij Discordia, Het Kaaitheater and Dito Dito performances ranging from the established repertory (Marlowe, Mishima, Koltes, Shakespeare, Heiner Müller, Elfriede Jelinek, Rene Pollesch), through staged stories (James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Rainer Maria Rilke) to performances devised in collaboration with composers, dancers and artists. With the International Theatre Bookshop, which he founded in 1978, he has published over 300 books about theatre dance and film.
Since 1995, he has been working also as a dancer and performed a solo Pour la fin du temps for the KunstenfestivaldesArts. He danced in several Crash Landing’s of Meg Stuart, and in dance-actions with Boris Charmatz, made a duet with Jonathan Burrows, Weak Dance Strong Questions and another one with Sandy Williams, Blindspot.
Ritsema has a predilection for bulky, complex, intellectual material. His theatre productions follow the traces of thinking itself, which in all of its openness, uncertainty, and infiniteness, demands a consistent ongoing process. Rather than the illusion-producing machine of the theatre, it is the incarnate presentation of differentiated coherences and ideas that intrigues him. His experimental approach is similar to the French filmmaker Godard, a director to whom he feels strongly connected. In collaboration with the performer and musicologist Bojana Cvejić he slithers along the borders of representation and ‘non-performance’ in performances like TODAYulysses, Pipelines, a construction, and Knowh2ow.
Since 2004, Ritsema is working with a Research & Development Grant from the Siemens Arts Program investigating the possibilities and limitations of theatre/performance by interviewing/discussing thinkers who have strong reflections on the dispositive 'theatre' in today's society. These talks are going to be published.
Ritsema teaches incidently at different theatre schools for acting and directing in the Netherlands and Belgium and at Summeracademies throughout Europe. He was from 1990 till 1995 professor at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. He has been a teacher at P.A.R.T.S., the contemporary dance school of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, since its foundation.
In 2006 Ritsema will start in an old convent near the French city of Reims a PerformingArtsForum (PAF), an open place for residencies and formation to experiment with other ways to produce and develop performingarts pieces and to rethink formation in performing arts.