Art & Design

Published on April 10, 2012 | by Elena


Another magic in Amsterdam: the art of street performing

We said it many times, but we will never be tired of it: Amsterdam is a terrific city. Among the most tourist-ridden cities in the world, with its well planned landscape and unique ambience, the Capital of Netherlands is always able to strike and surprise travelers with its excesses and creative proposals. One of the many things that make Amsterdam so interesting – weird enough, but maybe not, due to the place we are talking about – are definitely street performers.

Street performance is the practice of performing in public places, for gratuities, which are generally in the form of money or food. People engaging in this practice include street performers, buskers, street musicians, minstrels, and so on.

Street performance dates back to antiquity, and occurs all over the world. But in Amsterdam this practice, let me say it, just finds its perfect match.

Acrobatics, animal tricks, balloon twisting, card tricks, clowning, dance, fire eating, fortune-telling, mime, you name it, Amsterdam is full of street performers which make the city even more magic than it actually is.

Two main pitches are currently shared in Amsterdam by street performers: these are Leidseplein – a busy square at the southern end of Amsterdam’s central canal ring – and Dam Square. There’s no special reason why these pitches are the most popular… and populated in the city, these are just the areas that historically developed and seem to work best. And passers by appreciate!

Leidseplein is the cultural heart of Amsterdam. Here street theatre shows are played on a spot marked ‘X’. Sometimes in the evening street theatre is played more towards the center of the square, while musicians and jugglers perform on the other side of tram tracks.

During the summer months, one side of Leidseplein is taken up by the large terraces of the bars lining the square. Here, tourists and locals relax with a drink and stay in good company, while enjoying amusing shows by mimes or clowns or listening to music performances of the many street singers gracing their public across the tables of the bars.

Even on Dam Square, every day you can happen to meet any sort of street performer, from street theatre actors to clowns, living statues, and musicians. Licensed street sellers, portrait painters and other artists are found along the small roads siding the square.

I was truly impressed to see how well organized street performers were in Dam Square. They map out their “day work” early in the morning, by scheduling performances and taking turns throughout the day, in order to give anyone the opportunity to amuse spectators. Everyone seems to do about a 45 minute chunk.

But why should one stop and look at these weird people doing strange thing, and even paying for that, when thousand remarkable attractions await us especially in a wonderful city like Amsterdam? I think the point is this: no other place, at least in Europe, I guess, is as suitable for this casual looking form of entertainment as Amsterdam. This is the Capital of creativity, strange venues and funny habits, this is the place where anything can happen.

Photo by country_boy_shane

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About the Author

Hey there! My name is Elena and I live in Pavia, where I work as a freelance journalist and Events Coordinator. My personal interests are culture, languages and art. I love travelling and learning about foreign cultures and different lifestyles, and then I like to share my experiences with others writing articles for this blog. My passions drive me forward to live the life of my dreams, and well that’s what I am really good at!

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