Samuel Wuersten

Artistic en executive director of Holland Dance Festival

For over thirty years, Holland Dance Festival has been a prominent part of the cultural scene in the Netherlands, and the organization's reputation extends to the farthest corners of the world. Much of this success is attributed to the administrative and artistic contributions of Samuel Wuersten, the executive and artistic director of Holland Dance Festival. Originally trained as a dancer, Wuersten has evolved into a visionary and influential leader, tirelessly working to establish the Netherlands as an international forerunner in the field of dance arts.

Wuersten has been responsible for numerous firsts in the Netherlands and has brought many Dutch premieres to the international stage. Among other things, he introduced the French prima ballerina Sylvie Guillem to the country, initiated collaborations between Russian star ballerina Diana Vishneva and choreographers Hans van Manen and Jiří Kylián, and created significant opportunities worldwide for Dutch dance artists and institutions. In the past decade alone, he facilitated around thirty Dutch dance companies and choreographers performing abroad or collaborating with international companies. Conversely, since assuming his position in 1994, he has brought over three hundred foreign companies to the Netherlands, including ‘world leaders’ of dance, such as the American Martha Graham Dance Company, the Brazilian Balé da Cidade, the Chinese Guangdong Modern Dance Company, and the Australian Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Long before any cultural budget cuts, Wuersten recognized the potential of using dance as a tool for societal connection and engagement. Embracing the principle that ‘Dance is for everyone, regardless of age or background’, he spearheaded a rejuvenation in the dance world and beyond by incorporating dance into areas such as education and healthcare. In doing so, Holland Dance Festival makes a significant contribution to addressing societal issues such as increasing physical inactivity among youth and growing loneliness, particularly among the elderly. The festival is also a pioneer in ‘dancing without limitations’, offering people with physical or intellectual disabilities the opportunity to experience the power of dancing themselves.

Born in Gstaad, Switzerland, in 1961, Wuersten became a Dutch citizen in 1999. He received his dance education at the Hamburg Ballett Schule in Germany and Codarts Rotterdam. After an international career as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer, he transitioned to artistic programming and other roles in which he could broadly promote dance. In addition to his role at Holland Dance Festival, Wuersten is the founder and artistic director of the Bachelor and Master dance programs at the Zurich University of the Arts in Switzerland. In 2023, he joined the Supervisory Board of the University of the Arts in The Hague. He is frequently sought after as an advisor for various dance organizations and as a jury member for international dance competitions. Before these positions, Wuersten served as the director of the dance programs at Codarts Rotterdam and was a member of the Board of Directors of the University of the Arts in The Hague. He also co-directed the international Steps dance festival in Switzerland and was the international curator of Diana Vishneva's CONTEXT Festival in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In 2011, Wuersten was honored with a knighthood in the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau. That same year, he was inducted into the French Order of Arts and Letters, receiving the title Chevalier dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Advisor, board member, and jury member for, amongst others:
Kylián Foundation (Chairman)
RIDCC - Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition
Rolex Mentor & Protégé Arts Initiative
Prix de Lausanne (member of the artistic committee)
Benois de la Danse, Moscow
IMZ Dance Screen
Eurovision Young Dancer
Concours de Paris
Helsinki International Ballet Competition
Seoul International Dance Competition
Solo Tanz Theater Festival Wettbewerb, Stuttgart, 
Internationaler Choreografie-Wettbewerb, Hannover 
Certamen Coreográfico de Madrid