It’s a wonderful life, if you can find it: Ann Van den Broek’s never-ending procession

Mike Figgis, director of Leaving Las Vegas (which earned Nicholas Cage an Oscar for best actor), agreed to film her performance Co(te)lette. That performance was awarded with ‘De Zwaan’ (the swan) for outstanding dance performance 2007/2008 in the Netherlands and choreographer Ann Van den Broek received the ‘Mouson Award’ in Frankfurt, in January 2010 for her work. And still, I had never seen a performance by this Belgian choreographer, whose performances have found a broader audience in the Netherlands than in her home country. Reasons enough to be eager to catch her new performance Q61, and to finally get to know her work.

Sometimes you wish you hadn’t gone to that (avant) premiere, but that you would have caught a performance at a later stage, when it has toured a bit. Because you just know that you haven’t seen the best version of a performance. Not that Q61 wasn’t finished. It was just that you felt that those six dancers on stage, at CC Berchem (Antwerp), hadn’t yet absorbed all those new movements and cues; that new language they have to express themselves in for, and that they weren’t able yet to ‘use’ it in the best possible way, for maximum effect.

Someone once said to me: you can compare a choreography by Ann Van den Broek to someone who keeps on hitting on a nail. And that was meant in a positive way. From the outset Van den Broek makes it clear on which nail she’s going to hit in Q61. ‘It’s a wonderful life, if you can find it’, legendary rock artist Nick Cave croons. And it’s obvious that those six performers on stage haven’t found it. Even though they are dressed in white, on that white stage, adorned with six big boxes in which they sometimes hide or go and stand as a statue.

Slowly those six dancers move around, all of them doing something different. They dress and undress, their bodies shiver, sometimes remembering those movements needed for sex, but having forgotten the emotions that are linked to that act. It’s as if they are emptied of their souls. Lobotomized. They walk, they crouch, they hide, they fall, they scream in silence. The girls put on those high heels and strut and take them off again. And then Nick Cave’s song comes up again.

It’s clear that Van den Broek wants to slowly pull you in and affect you by this cold, unemotional trance. But in my opinion she falls short. Her choreography isn’t strong enough to really get under your skin. And her dancers – even though they are giving it all they have – are lacking the charisma needed to transfer the state of mind Van den Broek is aiming at to an audience.

Arne Van Dongen’s sober sound scape links one Nick Cave moment to the next, and right before Cave sings his Wonderful life for a third time, you know what to expect: there is no real ending for this procession. At the end we find ourselves back at the beginning.

‘Q61’ will premiere February 4, at Korzo (CaDance Festival), The Hague. Tour schedule here.

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4 Responses to “It’s a wonderful life, if you can find it: Ann Van den Broek’s never-ending procession”

  1. Hi

    Fan of Van den Broek’s work and thoroughly enjoyed much of Co(te)lette. The one negative been the violent strip/naked scene. It’s almost as if being a female choreographer makes her push the boundary with female nudity. How is the female nudity handled in Q61 both in terms of amount and explicitness?

  2. Did Sandra Maes dance in this?

    • utopiaparkway Says:

      No. This is the cast: Jan Deboom, Andreas Kuck, Frauke Mariën, Cecilia Moisio, Judit Ruiz Onandi and Dario Tortorelli.

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