Contemporary dance from Flanders and Brussels (2018)

Wim Vandekeybus / Ultima Vez - Traces (c) Danny Willems

How Brussels, and by extension Flanders, grew to become one of the world’s capitals of contemporary dance is now well known. In a nutshell, the story takes us from what’s known as the Vlaamse Golf (The Flemish Wave, a movement in Flemish theatre in the 1980s)  – with choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Marc Vanrunxt and Alain Platel, as well as theatre makers, writers and directors Jan Fabre, Jan Lauwers, Ivo Van Hove, Jan Decorte, Guy Cassiers and others – the Klapstukfestival and the establishment of various official arts centres in the 1980s, along the evolution of the P.A.R.T.S. school of dance and the explosion of international choreographers in the 1990s.[1] We eventually arrive at the complex, rich and hybrid landscapes that we know today. Here, dance has long no longer been a neatly delineated discipline, but an amalgam of the many artistic practices that connect to the phenomenon of dance.[2]

Despite its artistic excellence, the extensive Brussels dance community and the international esteem it enjoys, dance in our own country long remained something of a niche phenomenon. The major arts centres, which enjoy structural support from the Flemish Community – such as Kaaitheater (Brussels), STUK (Leuven), deSingel (Antwerp), Buda (Courtrai) and Vooruit (Ghent) – can rely on faithful audiences, and international tours and international appreciation are considerable. The more local cultural centres (‘CC’), distributed across cities and municipalities throughout Flanders, are also important podia for the performing arts, but they still have to go to great lengths to bring dance to their audiences. Recent decades have seen insufficient policy developed by government authorities to improve distribution, audience development and literacy in dance.

Thanks to several initiatives, however, we can cautiously say that the tide does seem to be turning. In 2015, STUK, in Leuven, re-oriented itself into a house of dance, image and sound. For the first time, Flanders had a dance centre of its own. Despite operating on a humble scale and with relatively limited means, there was now an institute that could bring this art form into the spotlight and promote its interests. The fact that the awkward popularity of dance is still primarily a question of ‘unknown and therefore unloved’, and that new audiences can be reached through a broader and at the same time more in-depth approach has been proven by the audiences attracted to STUK. Thanks to a diverse selection of dance for young people, big names, workshops with amateurs and local school involvement, STUK is now drawing as many viewers for dance as was previously true for all of the performing arts. In addition, the Dag van de Dans (Day of the Dance), an initiative of dance companies for which Minister of Culture Sven Gatz has made funding available since 2016, is meant to bring dance to the attention of the wider public. The major arts centres, local culture centres, museums, dance schools and film houses are all taking full advantage with multifaceted programmes. Now, following its third edition, it has been proven a great success. This will not immediately produce long-term structural results, but it has certainly coloured the way dance is perceived.

Certainly in dance, whose codes are not always easily readable, audience participation has become an important key to breaking down the barriers.

Greater inclusivity

Not only are programmers, audience development personnel and communications specialists today seeking broader public support and greater inclusivity for dance, so too are the choreographers themselves. More than ever before, they want to speak directly to their audiences. Benjamin Vandewalle, for example, likes to use the city as his setting, and in Walking the Line (2017), he investigated the choreography of public space. Other choreographers employ dance as a social instrument, making the art form truly tangible for audiences. This is a development that is also reflected in the performing arts in general, but certainly in dance, whose codes are not always easily readable, audience participation has become an important key to breaking down the barriers.

This participative work is often intergenerational and locally rooted. For Invited (2018), choreographer Seppe Baeyens, for example, set to work with inhabitants of Molenbeek, including a 94-year-old retired butcher, two people with Down syndrome and a handful of willful teenagers. For a full two years, he worked with them on the theme of ‘co-authorship’, which resulted in an impressive performance in which the entire audience was invited to dance. It is remarkable how Baeyens’ desire for social inclusion never for a moment stood in the way of the finality of his project. It proves that working participatively by no means needs to result in consensus art.

INVITED Seppe Baeyens (c) Danny Willems

For The Common People (2014), Jan Martens, who likes to work with diverse performers for all of his productions, also brought together a colourful group of amateurs from various Flemish and Dutch cities. They met one another for the first time on stage, in a series of blind dates. These regular citizens were given simple scripts whereby they were asked to dress one another or act out specific exercises together. Between each of these encounters, audiences visited an installation in which they could poke around in the smart phones of the participants. In this way, Martens drew critical attention to the loss of genuine contact within a society in which we ever more frequently experience everything through a screen.

Choreographer Vera Tussing also reaches back to the roots of dance that formed communities, as a means of protest against the alienation and individualization of our times. Closeness and tactility are keywords in her work. In The Palm of Your Hand (2015), the audience forms an ellipse around the dancers, who seek contact with our fingers, allow our palms to slide over their shoulders and backs, and connect the circle with high fives. Because Tussing is making use of other senses, rather than just vision, her work is highly accessible. In collaboration with the Kaaitheater, which for the last two years has been experimenting with combining dance performances with touch tours and audio descriptions, she adapted her piece for the blind and vision impaired.

This quest for inclusivity moreover extends to other arenas. Thanks to such dance companies as Nat GrasTuning People and kabinet k, which puts youngsters and adults together on stage, dance for children has expanded into an adult genre. Among others, the fABULEUS production house, which engages a considerable number of choreographers from the adult circuit to work with and for young people, and the Krokusfestival in Hasselt, which programmes a lot of international youth dance, have also contributed to this. Platform-K is the only professional company in Belgium that creates dance performances with disabled artists. What links all of these companies and choreographers is that they are all in the process of dismantling the classical concept of virtuosity. It is not the technical capacities of a dancer that take priority, but his or her authenticity and unique language of movement.

The last few years have also seen a great deal of dance that has not necessarily been inclusive or participatory in nature, but which has nonetheless appealed to broad audiences. Lisbeth Gruwez, in her ‘trilogy of the ecstatic body’, anatomized such primal instincts as laughter and fear in a physical and affective manner. Her meticulously clever studies of movement are not about concepts, but prefer to play with the recognizability and the alienating effects of everyday behaviour, skilfully driven to a peak by musician and sparring partner Maarten Van Cauwenberghe. Like the above-mentioned Jan Martens, Gruwez is a welcome guest in both the major centres for the arts and local culture centres.

Peeping Tom – rue Vandenbranden 32 (c) Herman Sorgeloos

In addition, the driving forces of dance theatre – Sidi Larbi CherkaouiPeeping Tom, Alain Platel and Meg Stuart – continue to produce works that tour widely in Flanders. Claire Croizé (who for nearly 20 years has been building a consistent oeuvre together with her partner Etienne Guilloteau) and Salva Sanchis – both rather ‘traditional choreographers’ known for developing complex movement vocabularies, often in relation to music – have had recent productions nominated for Het Theaterfestival, which presents the best of the season. This demonstrates that the wider public’s appreciation of more abstract dance can also expand. 

A pluriverse scene

If there is one thing that has distinguished the Flemish and Brussels dance landscape in recent years, it is the deep desire to break open the canon of (Western) dance, to let in more social, cultural and gender diversity. In the last 30 years, thanks to the presence of P.A.R.T.S. and such companies as Ultima Vezles ballets C de la BRosas and Damaged Goods, Brussels and Flemish dance has enjoyed an enormous international influx. More than ever before, this is also translating into the work being produced. Choreographers Fabian BarbaRadouan MrizigaSerge Aimé Coulibaly and Moya Michael, for example, are sharply aware of the traditions of their home countries and bring with them different cultural heritages, references and aesthetic criteria. What do we call ‘contemporary’? How Eurocentric is our vision of what is ‘in’ or ‘out’ at any given moment? What practices fall outside the norm, and what (new) vision of the body and community do they represent?

If there is one thing that has distinguished the Flemish and Brussels dance landscape in recent years, it is the deep desire to break open the canon of (Western) dance, to let in more social, cultural and gender diversity.

Concealed histories and new forms of embodied knowledge are also being called to our attention. In recent years, Eszter Salamon has presented performances based on tribal war dances and protest dances repressed by Western colonialists. The series, not coincidentally entitled Monument, proposes an alternative historiography of dance, and with it summarizes an urgency that lives more widely than just in the arts alone. How can we create a pluriverse, multi-epistemological society?

What is also striking is that many of the choreographers mentioned above not only bring intercultural exchange onto the stage, but graft their entire practices on that exchange. For example, Serge Aimé Coulibaly consistently creates his performances partly in Africa and partly in Europe, and in 2014, he founded Ankata, an international art laboratory for research and creation in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. Arco Renz, who spent 20 years working with performers and organizations from India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Java and so on, is also the driving force behind Monsoon, a platform that brings together artists from East and West. Barba and Mriziga also act as bridges, dividing their time between Ecuador and Morocco, respectively, and Brussels. These young choreographers do not just want to aim their careers towards the West, but are searching for ways to share multilateral knowledge and invest their expertise and energies in their places of origin. Within this same dynamic, organizations such as Brussels’ Moussem Nomadic Arts Centre, with links to Arab regions, and individual curators, including Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi, play a reinforcing role.

Pop it like its hot

Critical questioning of the traditional canon also means that choreographers are more and more frequently looking beyond institutionalized dance for their inspiration, towards popular culture. Choreographers Ula Sickle, Koen Augustijnen, Rosalba Torres Guerrero, Helder SeabraRandi De VliegheUgo DehaesSidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Michiel Vandevelde work with dancers from the world of street dance, or find inspiration in urban movement material that they then confront with the choreographic tools and dramatic principles of contemporary dance. Such styles as breaking, krumping, popping, locking, hip-hop, dance hall, voguing and popular folk dances are reconciled and harmonized with more academic techniques from ballet, modern and postmodern dance.

Critical questioning of the traditional canon also means that choreographers are more and more frequently looking beyond institutionalized dance for their inspiration, towards popular culture.

It is by no means new, Alain Platel’s Iets op Bach (A Little Something to Bach)from 1998, has continued to be an important reference performance. The scale of its symbolic reach, however, has greatly increased. At the same time, urban arts have been spotted by the radar of KVS, Brussels’ municipal theatre, which hosted the Lezarts Urbains hip-hop festival for the first time in 2017. For its part, STUK is in partnership with Straatrijk, a social and cultural association that considers urban dance a fully-fledged art form, and organizes numerous open stages and battles.

Although hip-hop in Flanders still has a hard time breaking out of the socio-artistic sphere to become a professional, autonomous ‘genre’ in its own right, its artistic potential has in fact been fully explored and legitimized in contemporary dance.[3] Ula Sickle, with Solid Gold (2010), Kinshasa Electric (2015) and Extended Play (2016), demands recognition for urban dance as a diverse collection of dance forms with their own power of expression, social reach and register of movements. Yassin Mrabtifi did this as well in From Molenbeek with Love (2018). Koen Augustijnen and Rosalba Torres Guerrero, in their stirring Badke (2013), combined the traditional Palestinian dabke dance with hip-hop and circus. 

Yassin Mrabtifi – From Molenbeek with love (c) Stanislav Dobav

In most cases, incorporating these urban dance forms is not just about enriching the dance vocabulary, but also about a more active synergy with the audience, a different presence, and bringing in new, contemporary representations of urbanity, identity and diversity. Far more than just as investigation into movement, Mrabtifi and Sickle are shifting urban dance culture to the fore, as a theme in its own right.

For his part, choreographer Michiel Vandevelde approaches popular culture with a critical eye. His most recent trilogy, Love Songs (Veldeke) (2013), Antithesis – The Future of the Image (2015) and Our Times (2016), is integrally comprised of movements from video clips and Internet rages that belong to the collective YouTube memory. By way of a complex montage of movements, music and philosophical quotes, Vandevelde has meticulously criticized the pervasive influence of our visual culture.

Between the person and the thing

In 2008, sociologist and dance theorist Rudi Laermans had already noted that ‘contemporary dance’ had become a hybrid term whose contours were no longer so easy to determine. Not only had the distinction between dance and performance become blurred, but choreographers were also working across disciplines more and more often, making use of video, text, light and new technology.[4] For his part, performance artist and philosopher Mårten Spångberg speaks of ‘expanded choreography’, with which he refers to the way in which choreography can express itself in forms other than dance, including architecture, musical scores and literature. Some examples of these evolutions include A No Can Make Space (2013) by Daniel Linehan, a book that can be read as a choreography, the choreographic poetry of Bryana Fritz and Mette Edvardsen, or Voicing Pieces (2017), an installation by Begüm Erciyas in which your voice is choreographed by way of a script.

In addition, as Rudi Laermans states, dance is no longer an art that takes place exclusively with and between human bodies. The motions and the performative qualities of ‘nonhuman actors’ can also be part of a performance.[5] This is true of productions by fieldworks (Heine Avdal and Yukiko Shinozaki), which are on the cutting edge between installation and performance art, and for The Artificial Nature Project (2012) and 7 Pleasures (2016), both creations by Mette Ingvartsen. In that last performance, the choreographer speculates about how our vision of sexuality has become fundamentally altered in our technological age. Twelve naked performers enact a heated object orgy with everyday objects, including a houseplant, a table, or a lamp. ‘In advertising, objects are presented as highly sexual. We just need to think of Apple,’ Ingvartsen says. ‘What if we imagined that objects had feelings with which we could engage in dialogue?’[6] 

The relationship between person and object is not only being rethought from the vantage point of technology, but also from an ecological framework.

The relationship between person and object is not only being rethought from the vantage point of technology, but also from an ecological framework. Insights from post-humanist theory, object-oriented-ontology or new materialism offer useful tools for analyzing performances that investigate the frontiers between animal, nature and human beings (examples include The Lover, 2015, by Bára Sigfúsdóttir, or Traces, 2017, by Rósa Ómarsdóttir, both of whom are not coincidentally Icelandic artists), or rethink the relationship between the thing and the body, as in the oeuvre of Louis Vanhaverbeke. His work navigates somewhere between dance, slam poetry, performance and installation art, and is populated with what he likes to call ‘junk’ – record players, Tupperware bowls, watering cans, carts, boxes, storage bins, industrial fencing, etc. These are often found objects that he recycles across different performances. This multifaceted artist playfully divests them of their traditional, functional logic and gives them a new purpose. His dance is the movement of a handyman or construction worker in search of an embodied experience in relation to the object. In Worktable (2011), and In Many Hands (2016), Kate McIntosh also investigates the sensual materiality of everyday things and quite literally lets you get your hands dirty.

The Lover – Bára Sigfúsdóttir (c) Sarah Baert

Alexander Vantournhout approaches objects with the eyes of a circus artist. He indeed has a unique profile: having studied at a circus college, he went on to follow a two-year training at P.A.R.T.S. In the tragic self-portrait, Aneckxander (2015), he followed a simple choreography, each time with a different prosthesis, including platform shoes, a white collar and boxing gloves. The objects make the movements almost impossible, forcing the dancer into a war of attrition. The intensity and the latent danger – inherent to the circus medium – inject the dance with a hitherto unseen dose of adrenaline. At the same time, its dramatic development – the circus’s structure of tricks gives it a difficult relationship with dramatic development – places a critical annotation on the obsession with virtuosity of many a circus artist.

The 1980s generation

So how do things stand with that golden generation of the 1980s and early 1990s?[7] Today, Anne Teresa De KeersmaekerMeg StuartWim VandekeybusAlain Platel and Marc Vanrunxt still hold an important place in the field, and they are still very much part of the world top.[8] Both De Keersmaeker and Stuart have been honoured with the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial, respectively in 2015 and 2018. In the last 30 years, these artists have each built up a consistent style of authorship of their own, in contrast to younger generations, who frequently combine diverse influences and movement registers and tend to be less conscientious about constructing personal choreographic signatures.

This canon nonetheless also continues to seek innovation. Alain Platel’s love of music, for example, is an increasingly emphatic presence in his work, to the degree that one can barely now refer to it as dance or dance theatre. Platel has of course always preferred to call himself a theatre maker rather than a choreographer. Coup Fatal (2014) and Requiem pour L. (2018) are theatrical concerts in which the music-making bodies of the Congolese musicians are the primary source of movement on stage. For two productions, Gardenia (2010), a musical about older transvestite artists, and En avant, marche! (2015), Platel collaborated with music director Frank Van Laecke.

Wim Vandekeybus continues his honoured tradition of swinging amongst all the disciplines. He exchanged his investigations into storytelling in Talk to the Demon (2013) and Mockumentary of a Contemporary Saviour (2017) for his full-blooded dance production, Speak Low if You Speak Love (2015), while also directing his first full-length film, Galloping Mind (2015).

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker continues to rediscover herself. On the one hand, she meticulously continues to add depth to the fundamental footprints of her oeuvre, including her investigation into the relationships between text and motion (Golden Hours, 2014; Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke, 2015) and between music and dance (Mitten Wir im Leben Sind, 2017). On the other hand, she initiates adventurous large-scale projects in which she confronts her choreography with other disciplines. For Work/Travail/Arbeid (2015) she adapted her Vortex Temporum (2012) performance into an exhibition that lasted nine weeks, and was presented at Wiels, Centre Pompidou and MoMA. In addition, she also directed Cosi Fan Tutte (2017) for the prestigious Paris Opera. The presence of six Rosas dancers, each in turn coupled with a single singer, made her interpretation of this Mozart classic exceptionally fresh and unconventional.

Consistent with the younger generation, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is also increasingly aware of the social potential of dance. She organized a Slow Walk in the heart of Brussels for the first Dag van de Dans and a Ritueel van Verbinding (Bonding Ritual) to commemorate the terrorist attacks in our country. De Keersmaeker also challenges herself with unexpected collaborations. She gave recently graduated choreographer Louis-Nam Le Van Ho the opportunity to create his version of Zeitung (2008). It was presented in 2017 together with her own reinterpretation, under the title of Zeitigung.

The spirit of co-creation and working together has also infected the major name companies.

The other ‘Eighties choreographers are also in search of new alliances. After Salva Sanchis’ departure, Marc Vanrunxt took four young choreographers under his wing in the context of Kunst/Werk, his production organization, namely Georgia VardarouLise VachonPeter Savel and Igor Shyshko. Stage designer Jozef Wouters will spend the next five years as artist in residence with Meg Stuart’s Damaged Goods. Within that arrangement, they have already produced two projects (Atelier III and Projecting Space, 2017), in which Stuart, following a series of major productions (including the spectacular autobiographical solo, Hunter (2015), and the rather freaked-out Until Our Hearts Stop (2016)), turned back to her love of improvization and in-situ projects.[9] For his part, from within the context of Ultima Vez, Wim Vandekeybus supports the work of Seppe Baeyens and Yassin Mrabtifi. In all three of these cases, the artists in residence are given the freedom and financial support to develop their own work under the auspices of the company. This shows how the spirit of co-creation and working together, a strong presence with the young generation who, in part because of the lack of structural means, have never belonged to an ensemble and have been accustomed to constantly taking on new collaborations, has also infected the major name companies.  Since it was founded in 1984, les ballets C de la B has supported choreographers other than Alain Platel and was consequently at the forefront of this evolution.

What the ‘Eighties generation moreover all share is that they not only look ahead, but also back, to their ‘future’ legacy. Given that the Flemish authorities invest little in ensuring the legacy of dance, the initiatives come primarily from the ground up. In this process, De Keersmaeker plays a pioneering role. In addition to creating new work, she consistently recaptures older productions with young casts (almost all of them P.A.R.T.S. alumni).[10] She moreover, together with fABULEUS, set up the Re:Rosas project, whereby amateurs were encouraged to perform the iconic Rosas danst Rosas, from 1983. Wim Vandekeybus and Meg Stuart also continue to perform older works or bring their histories to attention in other ways, as in the publication of The Rage of Staging, a book about 30 years of Ultima Vez, published in 2017.

Equally exceptional is the fact that both Rosas and Ultima Vez, entirely on their own initiatives, have coupled educational initiatives to their work. Rosas, amongst other things, has set up an educational programme for secondary schools (RondOmDans) and a successful dance school for children (Dancing Kids), while Ultima Vez, in collaboration with such social and/or cultural partners as the Brussels Ouderplatform (Brussels Platform for Seniors) is strongly supporting the participation of target groups in dance. In this way, it is possible that not only the Brussels dance community, but also people who generally do not have access to the world of the arts, can make weekly visits to a working studio, the Participatief Laboratorium, whose driving force is choreographer Seppe Baeyens.

A new direction for the Royal Ballet of Flanders

For many years, bridges that connected the Royal Ballet of Flanders and the contemporary dance scene were few and far between.[11] Jan Fabre’s 2002 production of Swan Lake was a rare exception. The Flanders Ballet has always operated as an island in the world of Flemish and Brussels dance.[12] As an illustration, in 2011, when Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker first gave permission to allow Rain (2001) to be danced by a company other than Rosas, the honour went to the Ballet of the Opera of Paris, not the Royal Ballet of Flanders. This says a great deal about their isolated status, something that can be explained not only from an artistic standpoint, but also a financial one. Historically, the Royal Ballet of Flanders was able to count on ad-nominatim government grants as an official Art Institution of the Flemish Community, an exceptional position that the company still partially enjoys today.

Under Kathryn Bennetts (2005-2012), the Flanders Ballet set itself on the international map with, amongst others, Impressing the Czar, by William Forsythe. Under the leadership of Assis Carreiro (2012-2014), however, their foreign tours dropped, the prestige and the internal atmosphere diminished rapidly, and the new director was dismissed in the summer of 2014. The Flanders Ballet now urgently needed to find new sources in order to restore the trust of the authorities, the public and its own team. No one less than Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was invited to take on the task. This Flemish-Moroccan choreographer had earned his laurels with les ballets C de la B, had for years been an in-house artist with Antwerp’s Toneelhuis, and in 2010, he founded his own company, Eastman. Cherkaoui’s appointment was consistent with an international trend in which increasing numbers of ballet companies were appointing contemporary choreographers as artistic directors, and/or inviting them as guest choreographers. It seems that breaking open ballet as an historic art form is in fact the only way to keep it alive.

Cherkaoui does not perceive his work for his contemporary company and the ballet as separate worlds.

With Cherkaoui, the Flanders Ballet had brought in a veritable darling of the public. He describes himself as a bridge-builder, and that is not simply because of his interest in Eastern cultures. In addition to his work with Eastman, the company that he continues to lead in parallel with the Flemish Ballet, he has already choreographed operas, films, a musical together with Alanis Morissette, and a number of video clips for Beyoncé. He works together with the Martha Graham Company and makes, despite the fact that he does not have a background in ballet, creations for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, The Royal Danish Ballet and The Dutch National Ballet.

Van Manen/Cherkaoui – Opera Ballet Vlaanderen (c) Piet Van Roe

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s credentials may have been duly far-ranging, but the transition at the Flanders Ballet did not go without a hitch. Some dancers feared that their company would lose its ‘classical’ identity, or that Cherkaoui’s busy schedule would mean they would not see enough of him. But after three seasons, the very least that can be said is that the name of the Flanders Ballet once again means something. Cherkaoui has an exceptionally broad network, and the Flanders Ballet was able to take advantage of that. They became the first to receive a license to perform Pina Bausch’s Café Müller (1975), unique in the history of dance. In addition, Cherkaoui also succeeded in snaring the neo-classicist Edouard Lock (formerly with La La La Human Steps) for two productions, and next season, Benjamin Millepied, former artistic director of the Ballet of the Opera of Paris, will present his first full-length performance in Antwerp.

The change of direction has moreover proven to be nowhere near as radical as might have been anticipated. Cherkaoui’s story is one of reconciliation and respect for tradition. His creations are well within the lines, and can perhaps best be described as ballet in a contemporary jacket. And that certainly appeals to the tastes of audiences. Since his arrival, audience numbers have increased markedly. In addition, Cherkaoui continues to invest in the classical repertoire (SpartacusThe Nutcracker), while still expanding the canon. He brought back the William Forsythe repertoire, as well as works by Martha GrahamHans Van Manen, Maurice Béjart, Vaslav Nijinsky and Merce Cunningham. He moreover offers opportunities to young talent, including choreographers Jeroen Verbruggen and Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, introduces important names from contemporary dance (Hofesh ShechterAkram Khan) and seems completely comfortable dealing with the hierarchical structure of the company. Occasionally, even Eastman dancers have joined the group, which demonstrates that Cherkaoui does not perceive his work for his contemporary company and the ballet as separate worlds. It is precisely in this synergy that he envisions the future of ballet.


[1] Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S.) school of dance was founded in 1995 by Rosas/Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and De Munt.

[2] For a detailed overview of this history (1980-2016), see ‘Contemporary Dance from Flanders’, by Pieter T’Jonck.

[3] Since the end of Hush Hush Hush in 2006, no other company that creates performances based on urban dance has been subsidized under the terms of the Kunstendecreet (Arts Decree). Let’s Go Urban, the organization in Antwerp surrounding Sihame El Kaouakibi, who also heads an academy and urban centre, applied for funding in the most recent round of applications, but was refused.

[4] Rudi Laermans, ‘Dance in General or Choreographing the Public, Making Assemblages’, in Performance Research, 2008, 13:1, 10.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Charlotte De Somviele, ‘Breaking news lijkt op een orgasme’. Choreografe Mette Ingvartsen klaagt de commercialisering van seks aan.’ De Standaard, 23/11/2017.

[7] Meg Stuart was not officially part of the Vlaamse Golf. She made her European debut with Disfigure Study at the 1991 Klapstukfestival. As Pieter T’Jonck has stated (2016, 14), her work forms a bridge between the 1980s generation and the explosion of young creators who came onto the scene in the 1990s.

[8] Jan Fabre and Jan Lauwers are also part of this list, but they primarily developed as theatre makers and writers, with inclinations towards visual art. Dance is often part of their presentations, but not their primary medium, which is why they are excluded here. Jan Lauwers’ wife, Grace Ellen Barkey, under the auspices of Needcompany, occasionally produces such surrealistic dance pieces as her recent Forever (2017).

[9] Atelier III, for example, was performed in Wouters’ decor studio, a former factory building in the Heyvaertwijk neighbourhood of Brussels. Projecting Space was created in an old mining factory as part of the Ruhr Triennial. 

[10] This means that in the last few years, a new generation of dance lovers have been able to experience Fase (1982), Rosas danst Rosas (1983), Achterland (1990), Drumming (1998) and Rain (2001).

[11] In Flanders, the Flanders Ballet was known under its formal title, the Royal Ballet of Flanders, until their merger with the Flanders Opera.

[12] Since the dissolution of the Ballet Royale de Wallonie in 1991, they were the only company in Belgium still dedicated to classical ballet.


Charlotte De Somviele

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