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Let’s dance! Brussels’ scene gets moving again

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(c) Hanna Pallot
Published at 26/04/2021
By Mylène

 

A new generation of dancers is unveiling its talents in Brussels. Driven by the freedom and artistic diversity of its contemporary scene, the capital is a real hub for dance and performance.

To mark International Dance Day, we wanted to explore what makes Brussels' DNA so unique. Deprived of a stage for more than a year, dancers, choreographers, students, companies and cultural institutions share with us their vision for dance and their plans for the future. Meet the people who make dance's heart beat so strongly in Brussels!

Elodie Verlinden
Tutor - Master in Performing Arts at ULB.

How do you define the DNA of Brussels' dance scene and what are its distinctive characteristics?

In my opinion, one of its distinctive characteristics is that it doesn't have any! It is characterised by a multitude of forms, sources and filiations. Like Brussels, a multicultural city, it offers hundreds of facets, even within the universe of a single choreographer. The Brussels scene doesn't limit itself, everything is possible. Ultimately, its unique feature is its diversity!

Can you describe your institution's relationship with dance in three words?

Paradoxical. Abroad, Brussels is considered a major hub for contemporary dance, with a history and choreographers known throughout the world. However, in Belgium, there is still no master's degree in dance! The Master of Performing Arts degree, for which I teach, only devotes one course to dance. It's always the shoemaker who wears the worst shoes! Nevertheless, this should change very soon with a new master's degree dedicated to the discipline…

Theoretical. At the university, our approach is very theoretical and reflective. We develop a "toolbox", teach our students reading grids, all of which is nourished by exchanges. But our education is not anchored in practical teaching of dance.

Vibrant. Nevertheless, our master's degree is fully connected to the performing arts. We are constantly keeping abreast of dance news and the current year's programme. Getting out of the library, going to see shows, analysing them and discussing them in the field is part of our daily routine!

" The Brussels scene doesn't limit itself, everything is possible. Ultimately, its unique feature is its diversity! "

Elodie Verlinden, Tutor - Master in Performing Arts at ULB

How have you reinvented yourself in recent months? And how have you continued to nurture your relationship with dance?

These last few months have been very difficult, because we live off experiences and go out! Normally, we go to see shows 3 or 4 times a week. The fact of experiencing something at the same time, with others, without any other media or screen between us, is essential to us. The current situation has, therefore, been incredibly frustrating! But the restrictions have also been a source of creativity, and we see very interesting new forms emerging, in public spaces or shop windows, for example.

What do you see as the new challenges for the dance scene in Brussels in particular and elsewhere?

First of all, I would like to stress the upcoming issue of survival facing especially small companies that are already fragile, even precarious, and that have been hit very hard. Without adequate and significant aid, there is a risk that a whole swathe of Brussels' trademark diversity will die out.

From a more creative point of view, we are seeing the emergence of new forms of participation that invite the "spect-actors" to get involved. We are also seeing the emergence of hybrid forms that take dance out of dedicated spaces and into new venues (social networks, public space) and an increased syncretism between various forms of live performance, with the addition of new technologies (drones, holograms, etc.)!

danse bruxelles - Charlotte Cétaire GXIII 2020 Class Diane Madden ©Olympe Tits

Charlotte Cétaire
student at PARTS, on the Bachelor in Dance "Training" programme

How do you define the DNA of Brussels' dance scene and what are its distinctive characteristics?

From my point of view as a student, I would say the "open stages" in schools. Being able to go in and see the students at work, in the heart of the studios. What I liked doing the most before COVID was going to see the work being created, following and spotting artists in the making... being part of the creative process. All Brussels' schools, whether in circus, theatre or choreography, take part in the exchange. There is a very heterogeneous side, which seems to me to be specific to Brussels.

Can you describe your institution's relationship with dance in three words?

Questioning and challenging. Here, we challenging the foundations to find new things within ourselves, create new relationships and to shake up our preconceived ideas.

And above all, touch: it's the essence of the living arts. All the senses are involved, but mainly touch, through which one can grasp many things. It is this contact that I miss the most at the moment!

How have you reinvented yourself in recent months? And how have you continued to nurture your relationship with dance?

During this period, I worked on a range of movements that I had never had to experiment with before: acrobatics, a lot of muscle strengthening, but also tree climbing! I used my body through a prism other than dance. It was not a question of reproducing the usual movements of the studio, but of looking for something new.

I also tried my hand at other things: drawing, writing, bookbinding... none of it was lost, these activities gave me ideas for my future projects.

What do you see as the new challenges for the dance scene in Brussels in particular and elsewhere?

In Brussels, we need the perennial, well-established companies to make more space and resources available for emerging companies. The same goes for large institutions. We quickly learn that the 'do it yourself' approach has a somewhat limited charm: we sometimes lack the time to fail, retry and then succeed. Especially to fail! All we need are the right tools, but we are forced to learn our craft with very little!

 

" We quickly learn that the 'do it yourself' approach has a somewhat limited charm: we sometimes lack the time to fail, retry and then succeed. Especially to fail! "

Charlotte Cétaire, student at PARTS,

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