Kristien De Coster (57) will stop as general manager of the dance company Ultima Vez at the end of this year. It was announced this week that she will be the new business manager of KVS. Here she prepares her personal balance sheet.
What are your most important assets?
‘Love. From and for my partner and children, my parents, my brothers and their families, my friends. I come from a family where money was not the focus. There was no abundance, but also no shortage, money was there to spend on the necessary. My husband and I have also moved more and more in the intangible direction. The fact that our house has recently been paid off gives us a sense of security. We also have a used car and an old bicycle. Don’t get me wrong: money is not unimportant, especially if you have children. You want to give them opportunities and let them participate in social life. Not everyone has these resources. Poverty is a big problem that needs to be tackled.’
‘My greatest working capital is the pleasure I have had working for Ultima Vez (Wim Vandekeybus’ dance company, ed.) for more than thirty years. I was able to commit to a project and a vision that I believed in: a privileged situation that I want for everyone.’
Who invested in you?
‘My parents were modest but open and allowed us to grow in our own choices. Father was the only one in his family who was sent to university. He became administrative director at Philips. Mom went through what was unfortunately often the case for her generation: As soon as you got pregnant, you had to stop studying. From a very young age, my father took me to the local library, making literature my first love. When I started working for Ultima Vez shortly after my studies in Germanic philology and theater studies, the manager at the time, Louise De Neef, taught me a working mentality. People can also mean a lot to each other as friends or neighbors. I am also privileged in that. There is a lot of attention to each other.’
Do you invest in others?
‘I was very committed to Ultima Vez, which came out of nowhere and experienced beautiful growth and flowering. And personally, I regularly support crowdfunding projects for young artists, and have sat on various boards in recent years.’
My children call me an eternal optimist.
“I’ve always been one of those hard-working moms. My kids sometimes call me a workaholic, but I don’t think I’ve ever fallen short. It was one big dynamic: they were also kids in my work environment and were involved in projects. My daughter especially liked it. I also have a great husband who helped keep the balance.”
Who are your advisors?
‘Unlike KVS, Ultima Vez’s board consists of people we have chosen ourselves. They feed the organization and frame it with expertise. Chairman Danny Op de Beeck was the business manager of KVS for many years. As far as personal advisors go, it wouldn’t help me to name a few names, but I have wonderful friends.’
‘Perhaps the best advice is: don’t let the problems of the day rule you, and stay in touch with friends and colleagues. Many feel lonely in these times. Making sense can help. My father died three years ago. Seeing the physically and mentally strong man fall ill was disturbing. Texts were very helpful to me, including those by British neurologist Oliver Sacks on his own end of life. A human life is a small cog, but one that can mean a lot to others, in a family and in the world, and can leave a big hole. Sacks writes how it is impossible to replace people who leave. It is our destiny to be unique, but it is like a wealth that you can take with you. I found comfort in that.’
Do you sometimes go into the red?
‘I’ve never had a burnout or anything like that. But because of corona, people in healthcare, education and the arts came under great pressure. I had to work harder and experienced more frustration than ever. Everything we had built was torn down. It caused tension.’
Have you written people off yet?
‘None. My children call me an eternal optimist. An important part of my work is to unite the artistic and business frameworks. It’s always a thrill, but when you work with artists, you should never clip their wings. There was never a person I didn’t want to talk to or work with. It takes two to tango. That’s the art.’
Is there a surplus on your balance?
‘Yes. I feel like a very rich person. At Ultima Vez I have been part of a project that I carry deep in my heart, a collaboration between so many amazing people. I don’t see much loss on a personal level either. Of course there is. When you get older, you have to say goodbye irrevocably: to people, but also to opportunities. Many things can no longer be done, but many others still can. The new challenge at KVS also gives me a sense of wealth.’