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Dance and performance arts: Brussels' cultural scene gets moving again!

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(c) Ahmad Odeh
Published at 21/09/2020
By Richard Harris
journaliste

Brussels’ dance troupes are rarin’ to go! After a forced halt to their programming they have risen to the challenge and reinvented their creations and their presentation for our safe delectation.

We spoke with Patrick Bonté, Artistic Director of Les Brigittines, with Agnes Quackels and Barbara Van Lindt, both General and Artistic Coordinator of Kaaitheater, to find out what they have in store for us in the next few months.

danse performance Kaaitheater Bruxelles  - Drumming (c) Herman Sorgeloos

What do you have lined up as dance performances for the 2020/21 season?

Patrick Bonté: We had originally planned to devote the entire month of October to the work of Swiss artist Chantal Michel which included two dancers, two actors, and thirty students and took place throughout the whole building including the lift, in close proximity with the public and culminating in a sit-down dinner for sixty people: however due to the crisis none of that is possible this year. The official season starts November 20th with the Ars Musica concert but before that to fill the hole, we have created Unpredictable Saturdays which will take place every second Saturday starting August 29th. These will include solos inside and outside the building, concerts, video installations, and a children’s show. These are festive joyful productions. Unpredictable Saturdays was created to restart our programme with a smile. After the Ars Musica concert the season will consist of many "double evenings" in which people will be able to see two productions, one at 7:00 and one at 8:30. That way the spectator can see two different shows in one evening, and even have a bite to eat between them. Among the shows are Estelle Delcambre’s "Marée haute" which involves dancing, body painting and paint transfer; only five minutes long but spot on. There’s also "l’Art de conserver la santé" by Ondine Cloez, an amusing look at medieval medicine in which she sings and dances medical formulas.

 

Agnes Quackels: At Kaaitheater we have a lot in store this season which is described in full on our website. But there will be additional programming by the time ticket sales start on August 27th.

danse performances Les Brigittines Bruxelles  - (c)Guillaume Escallier

"We have created Unpredictable Saturdays which will take place every second Saturday starting August 29th. These will include solos inside and outside the building, concerts, video installations, and a children’s show. These are festive joyful productions (...) to restart our programme with a smile."

Patrick Bonté, Les Brigittines

Can you give an aperçu of some of the highlights (or your favorites) of this dance season?

 

A Q: The programme of this autumn is heavily coloured by Covid-19, not so much as a theme, rather as an influencer. For instance, "Drumming", the classic by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker/Rosas was planned to be performed with live music by Ictus. There was no way the show could be rehearsed with a large cast of dancers and musicians in the early summer – so De Keersmaeker decided to rework the choreography for a smaller cast, without live music and for a unique constellation of an audience seated in a circle around the performers. Drumming will be performed 20  times in the Rosas Performance Space in October.

 We are presenting "Blue Skies Forever", the first performance of the Brussels based young collective Buren. With irony, humour, and future-oriented imagination, they play with such themes as the feminine, pop music and neoliberal fantasies. Developing a strong visual universe made of colours, images, objects, dances and songs woven together, they subvert the clichés that continue to dominate representations of women today.

P B: There’s a short solo by Eléonore Valère-Lachky, "Courir les yeux fermés au bord d’un ravin" which we will be presenting a number of times during the season, in which she dances to a recorded piece that includes her voice detailing the possible ecological collapse, a simple citizen’s call to action but extremely well documented. She moves and dances to the text and what we found really compelling about the performance is that there is an absolute balance between the dancing and the presented information, so neither one ever has to carry the other. A remarkable performance.

Danse performances Kaaitheater Bruxelles  - Buren, Blue skies Forever (c) Joeri Thiry Stuk

Is there an overall theme to the season/How would you characterize the season if you were presenting it to someone?

 

P B: Every year we create a catchphrase to express what we are working towards, what we would like the public to see as a link between art and reality. This year it’s "Imagination is a Shifting Form of Unpredictable Beauty" and the focus is on works that create their own languages. These come in very disparate styles but they all create a specific universe. The more unique it is, the more universal it is as long as the language allows us to share. Our fondest hope is to put imagination into invention, to put research into the heart of what we do. In the post pandemic world we will have to reinvent freedom and we see art as being capable of inventing something completely different.

 

Barbara Van Lindt : Over the coming years, Kaaitheater will be guided by the question How to Be Many? We explicitly see this as an endeavour for years to come, and not a season’s theme. It’s a question that resounds in many places in society.  We wished for this question to be a leitmotif at Kaaitheater. How we can make space for many perspectives, and work towards a theatre in which many voices are self-evident. A theatre creating space for many voices, many stories and many bodies. A theatre by and for many.

Danse performance Les Brigittines Bruxelles  - Magnificent4 Hong Kong © Stéphane Broc

"Over the coming years, Kaaitheater will be guided by the question How to Be Many? How we can make space for many perspectives, and work towards a theatre in which many voices are self-evident. A theatre creating space for many voices, many stories and many bodies. A theatre by and for many. "

Barbara Van Lindt, Kaaitheater

For the health crisis what measures have been taken for everyone’s comfort and safety? Have there been esthetic changes in the performances, for instance adaptation of the staging to respond to the crisis?

 

B V L: Today – mid July – we can say: going to the theatre will be altogether a different ritual. At Kaaitheater, the safety and health of artists, staff and audiences comes first. In accordance with government measures, the physical distance between members of the audience is respected. This means that less seats are available, so we have decided to only offer our program in the big hall of Kaaitheater and not present public activities at Kaaistudio’s, our second and smaller venue. This means performances meant for a smaller stage are shown on the big stage; an exciting opportunity to explore a different scale. Some artists are indeed adapting their performances accordingly, and some planned performances could not be made during lockdown. Also, we will allow for more time for the audience to enter the hall, and each group (bubble) to be seated personally by our staff. And then again, September is far away, who knows what will (not) be possible by then?

 

P B: For the safety of the artists we have transformed Les Brigittines into an obstacle course of sorts with each floor self contained, one way paths everywhere, the kitchen closed when the public is not present, and masks required when a person is on the move. For the public we will see how things evolve, but for the time being we are striving to be as reassuring and as strict as possible. So during the Unpredictable Saturdays we will maintain the required physical distancing and the wearing of masks. But there are complicated details. During concert nights there will be tables available. They are bubbles and when people are seated they can remove their masks, but if they want to get up to go get another drink they must put the mask back on; in other words, one can only drink seated at a table. I think the public wants to feel secure and so our rules are in place to make sure that no one is ever too close to someone else. Since most of the first set of performances are solos we have not had to change the staging, and one of the other performances is a duo but the performers are a couple in real life and for the other two performances that are not solos, the casts have created bubbles.