Traces of Freedom

On horseback on the way to freedom

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What is the experience of freedom?

What prevents me from thinking and acting from freedom?
When I think about freedom, what dream do I want to create in my life?

In search of the personal meaning of freedom, Tjerk Ridder traveled with the Belgian draft horse Elvi through different landscapes and past specific places of freedom and unfreedom in Western Europe. An interactive musical theater program has emerged from the experiences and encounters along the way of this poetic and symbolic journey.

Current and personal

Freedom is a great, universal and current concept. During Traces of Freedom, Tjerk mainly focuses on the personal side of the concept of freedom and interacts with himself and others; where do you experience space and freedom? Do you live according to your possibilities and talents?

How malleable is man?

The project started at the Oerol theater festival on Terschelling. After Friesland, Tjerk visited the Colonies of Benevolence in Drenthe, Overijssel and Flanders in stages. The Colonies of Benevolence are essentially the beginning of the current Dutch healthcare system, an ideological initiative that General Johannes van den Bosch started in 1818. To help vagrants and paupers build an honest working-class existence through structure, discipline and education. But how malleable and how malleable is man? How adaptable and shapeable are you actually?

Pushing boundaries; Europe and traveling without a passport

Tjerk also visited the village of Schengen in Luxembourg. In 2020 it was 35 years ago that the Schengen Treaty was signed by the very first five European countries and the residents of Europe can slowly but surely travel freely without a passport. But due to the current political situation, the many refugees in search of freedom, the Schengen treaty and European cooperation have come under pressure. Where does my freedom begin and yours end? At a national border?

Traces of Freedom – the interactive theater program

During the performance, Tjerk, supported by his band and film material, talks and sings about his experiences before, during and after the process. Some of the encounters along the way were filmed by documentary maker Tobias Mathijsen. These interviews provide insights and motivations from a variety of people. They talk to the camera about their thoughts, ideas about and experiences of freedom. During the performance, Tjerk also interacts with the audience, giving time and space to reflect on your life and current society in a rapidly changing world.

The first 'Traces of Freedom' performances took place in the Paardenkathedraal theater in Utrecht. An international version was shown at the LOVE360 festival in Istanbul, Turkey and at the Ruhrtriennale in Bochum, Germany. 


'Sea of possibilities, sea of time.

Sea of opportunity, sea of regret.

Sea of dreams, sea of tides,

sea of fear about what to do.'

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Travel with us, come to a performance!