Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
– article by Fenna Riethof
“A big Utrecht party for people from within and outside the LGBTQ community“
Exactly 506 of southern neighbours are representing Belgium in Utrecht. Robi van Geenhoven is one of them. Robi is sitting at the bar in De Zaak, a place that means a lot to him. He worked there as a waiter for the last two years but more importantly, it’s where he learned to be himself.
“My first two years in Utrecht were lonely. That all changed when I started working here. At the end of my first day, a colleague asked me something that I had never asked but had always wanted to. The quirky nature of the question made me realise that this was a very special place; nobody was putting on a front. I gradually started to realise that being lonely isn’t about relating to other people, but about how tolerant you are of yourself.”
He came to Utrecht in 2013, following his best friend who had come here to study drama. This same friend had inspired him to study movement drama in Antwerp. After two years at HKU University of the Arts, she told him: ‘Robi, this is made for you!’ He was immediately enthusiastic, applied and was accepted.
He graduated last summer. His graduation performance was about drag queens. “I went to the drag queen Cherry Poppins to ask for information. He said that as the maker, I need to know what it’s like to be a drag queen. He was right of course. So he became my ‘drag-mother’. I bought make-up at Etos and Action and a blue pencil dress at a funky boutique in old Hoog-Catharijne. At home, I practised lip synching. The performance was nerve-wracking, but fantastic. My brother came from Belgium to watch, and I realised that I’m a show beast.”
Robi doesn’t think much of the Utrecht gay scene. “At least, not for stable men looking for a relationship. Like me. I do like the monthly RUBBER party in club BASIS though. It’s the only party that manages to bring together people from within and outside the LGBTQ+ community.”
Partying isn’t high on his agenda at present as he needs a job. There’s not much to choose from in the theatre sector. Robi points to the posters on the walls of De Zaak. “There’s so much on offer in Utrecht that it damages the content and quality of the productions. In Belgium, the art itself is more important than the audience. There’s no passion here in the Netherlands.” He’s not sure whether he’ll work in the Netherlands. “I’m not tied to any one place.”
To broaden his horizons, Robi wants to try his hand at the film academy: directing, editing, designing, acting. Probably abroad. But for now, he’s in Utrecht pimping his CV. He works as a volunteer on programming the Nieuwjaarsduik, the start of the city’s new cultural season. He gave up his job in De Zaak a couple of days ago. A leap of faith. He explains: “This job isn’t helping me to realise my dream of becoming an independent artist. So I’m forcing myself to find another job.” He raises his glass. “And I’m fairly confident.”
Name: Robi van Geenhoven
Place of birth: Antwerp, Belgium
Year of birth: 15 June 1992
Motto: ‘I’ve got two: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and my grandad’s last words: “Everything will be just fine”.‘
Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.