Wim Vandekeybus looking for gold in ‘nieuw/Zwart’


NieuwZwart. New black. It’s not about fashion. It’s certainly not about goth. It’s a painter trying to invent a new colour: Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus, wanting to invent a new ‘landscape’ for his new performance, after a career spanning 20 years.

A rocktrio on a small platform, floating in midair. Underneath them: a girl, dressed in white, walking around, reciting poems by Flemish author Peter Verhelst (from his ‘Nieuwe sterrenbeelden’ or ‘New constellations’), and seven dancers, moving around on a blown up photo of a thistle. And, last but not least: lots of golden first aid blankets, adding colour to a fairly dark scenery.

The music is loud and wild (written by Mauro Pawlowski, from Belgium’s acclaimed alternative rockband dEUS). Sometimes you hear the sound of a car-crash. The poem is about climbing that mountain again and again. You see crawling naked bodies, people running around like prehistoric men, dancers crashing into one another.

Don’t try and understand the meaning of all of this. For Vandekeybus this performance is like an abstract painting. You really don’t have to get all the words and all the images. ‘It’s one big ball of energy. A primitive ritual; a state of trance.’ It’s about those familiar keywords in Vandekeybus’ work: the subconscious, the instinct, and intuition.

With ‘nieuwZwart’ Vandekeybus wanted to make a fresh start. Even more than in previous performances, it’s not about the choreography. Vandekeybus-fans waiting for those typical, spectacular dance-scenes won’t get what they are hoping for. This is about creating a living poetic organism, using words, music, visual images, light and movement.

Was I seated too far in the back of the huge Ostend Kursaal, during the Belgian premiere of this performance? Was it because this ‘organism’ is relying on the same vague images of (re)birth, death and violence that I’ve see from Vandekeybus too often? Or that lots of the scènes just weren’t powerful enough? That some of this chaos could have done with stronger ideas and a stronger input from a director? The fact remains that, in the end, Vandekeybus ‘poem’ didn’t draw me in. To me this new black was looking just a tiny bit too much like, eumh, the old black.

For Belgian fans who have missed the performances during Theater Aan Zee, in Ostend, ‘nieuw/Zwart’ will be performed in Brussels, Leuven, Kortrijk, Brugge, Dilbeek, Turnhout, Roeselare, Antwerpen, Hasselt en Gent, later this year. More info here.

(photo credit: Pieter-Jan De Pue)

One Response to “Wim Vandekeybus looking for gold in ‘nieuw/Zwart’”

  1. I agree. I was seated near the stage, though missed energy in the performance… One scene I will never forget: the two dancers under the musicians lighted with hard, white light. And this were things I expected to see and feel more.

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