Archive for review

Slowly going to the heart of the matter: Morton Feldman’s ‘Piano and String Quartet’ by Ictus & Fumiyo Ikeda

Posted in contemporary classical music, contemporary dance, dance, music with tags , , , , on February 18, 2017 by Utopia Parkway


Once in a while a photographer takes a picture, and when he looks at that picture, he notices the presence of some ghostly figure. Someone who wasn’t in the room at all when the photo was taken. That’s what I had to think of, watching the Belgian contemporary music ensemble Ictus perform Morton Feldman‘s Piano And String Quartet (Kaaitheater, Brussels). On stage with them: Rosas veteran Fumiyo Ikeda. Was it that peculiar piece of music, or her dancing? It seemed as if she was there while not being there at all.

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It’s like… He talks a bit and she dances a bit: ‘Shown And Told’ (Meg Stuart & Tim Etchells)

Posted in contemporary dance, dance, performance with tags , , , , on January 28, 2017 by Utopia Parkway


“I dance because I wanted to be a magician but I’m not good with stuff”, Meg Stuart tells the audience, somewhere along Show And Told, her collaboration with Tim Etchells. If the piece proves one thing, it’s how good the American choreographer and the British (performance) artist actually are with stuff. Be it other stuff. Movement stuff. Language stuff.

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Making the ungraspable tangible. Or how Romeo Castellucci gets his ‘Minister’s Black Veil’ right the second time

Posted in performance, theatre with tags , , , on December 28, 2016 by Utopia Parkway


When was the last time these people had been queuing up to get into a church? Not to admire a unique painting or a stained glass window, but for a real service? Just a thought, as I was standing on the steps of Antwerp’s Sint-Michiels church, watching the crowd, waiting for the doors to open, thinking about religion, theatre and rituals. Three things I was sure this evening was going to be about. The Minister’s Black Veil. Five years ago Romeo Castellucci tried to stage it, but he failed. So I was really curious to see what he would do this time, with the help of American actor Willem Dafoe.

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A trip towards the sublime: “Rain” (live) by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Rosas

Posted in contemporary dance, dance with tags , , on December 10, 2016 by Utopia Parkway


It’s as if you are searching for something that you’re never able to find. What a reader of this blog once told me. A remark I suddenly remembered, as I was watching Rain, version 2016, fifteen years after Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker had put it to the stage for the first time. I realized that person was right. Although I know there are other things in art to aim for than the sublime, part of me will always be looking for that: beauty’s more exalted version. And here it was.

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Mourning in a museum of another kind: ‘Moeder’ (Mother) by Peeping Tom

Posted in contemporary dance, dance, performance, theatre with tags , , , , on November 24, 2016 by Utopia Parkway


A painting starts to bleed, a sculpture comes to life, and isn’t that coffee machine behaving rather strangely? Welcome to Peeping Tom‘s universe, where “normal” is a concept that doesn’t seem to exist. With Moeder (Mother) the Brussels-based company once again puts on stage a piece resembling a surreal dream, in which one strange event follows the next.

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Torn clothes and shattered hopes: ‘Nicht Schlafen’ by Alain Platel & Les Ballets C de la B

Posted in contemporary dance, dance, sculpture, theatre with tags , , on November 12, 2016 by Utopia Parkway


The piece reached its low point somewhere near the end, when one of the dancers pulled his briefs down and started fucking the dead horse that had been lying there all the time, legs wide open. It was not a scene depicting utter hopelessness or despair, it was a scene that stood for the lack of directorial vision I had been feeling for quite a while, watching Nicht Schlafen; at that point a piece that seemed not to know where to go anymore. Just do something, and it will be okay. Even fucking a horse.

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“We’re Pretty Fuckin’ Far From Okay”: Lisbeth Gruwez’s deconstruction of bodies in distress

Posted in contemporary dance with tags , , , , , on July 19, 2016 by Utopia Parkway


One doesn’t say no to Avignon. So when the French summer festival asked Lisbeth Gruwez for a new piece, she accepted, notwithstanding her company Voetvolk’s very busy international touring schedule. We’re Pretty Fuckin’ Far From Okay – which actually premiered at Julidans in Amsterdam – is the last part of a trilogy focusing on the ecstatic body, comprising also the successful performances It’s Going To Get Worse And Worse And Worse, My Friend and AH|HA. This time around the Belgian dancer/choreographer zooms in on fear and what it does to our body and breath.

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Things are not always what you expect them to be: Rinus Van de Velde’s “Donogoo Tonka”

Posted in art, contemporary art with tags , , , , on June 1, 2016 by Utopia Parkway


Much talked about exhibitions. You know how it goes: you’ve read all the articles and the interviews, you’ve seen the images and you wonder: should I really bother to go? Because you’re almost sure you’ve seen everything there is so see. Sort of what my feeling was about Donogoo Tonka, the successful solo exhibition by the adored Belgian visual artist Rinus Van de Velde at S.M.A.K. (through June 5). But then I happened to be in Ghent, and I decided to drop by.

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What happens when dance is governed by another set of rules? Some thoughts on ‘Work/Travail/Arbeid’ by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (Wiels, Brussels)

Posted in art, contemporary art, dance, performance with tags , , on June 18, 2015 by Utopia Parkway


What happens when dance is governed by another set of rules? Well, you get a hype, to begin with. More than 24.000 people went to see Work/Travail/Arbeid by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker during the nine weeks it was on at Wiels contemporary art centre, Brussels. The exhibition was one of this year’s best ‘performances’ a jury of Flemish critics decided, and so there will be a short rerun at Wiels in September, for Het Theaterfestival in Brussels. In 2016 Work/Travail/Arbeid will be presented by Centre Pompidou (Paris) and Tate Modern (London). I went to Wiels several times, trying to figure out why people were so drawn to this. These are my thoughts.

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Trying to mix Shakespeare with Brian Eno: ‘Golden Hours (As you like it)’ by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Rosas

Posted in contemporary dance, dance with tags , , , , on February 16, 2015 by Utopia Parkway


Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker dancing to Brian Eno. That’s how Golden Hours was announced. But somewhere along the way it became: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker dancing to Shakespeare. Golden Hours (As you like it) still carries the traces of that shift. The piece once again proves the radical artistic mind of the Belgian choreographer, but at the time of the premiere (Kaaitheater, Brussels, January 2015), it was a dance performance that definitely needed some more thought.

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Funny, creepy and ridiculously perfect: ‘AH/HA’ by Lisbeth Gruwez/Voetvolk

Posted in contemporary dance with tags , , on November 8, 2014 by Utopia Parkway


Stop! Now!, I was thinking. And surprisingly enough the lights went out that very moment. Artists often tend to want to prove too much and end up putting too many things in a performance. So it felt almost as a relief to see someone sticking to a couple of essential ideas and think them through. AH/HA by Lisbeth Gruwez and her company Voetvolk. Gruwez is the Belgian choreographer who has toured the world with her solo It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend – more than 100 shows, and counting: Canada in January, Paris in March. AH/HA is her first group choreography, and it’s a gem.

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Beautifully cutting up and reassembling the past: ‘Hunter’ by Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods

Posted in dance with tags , , , , on October 13, 2014 by Utopia Parkway


Some performances are gone the next day. Forgotten. Some stay with you a little longer. And some keep on popping up in your mind. Such as Hunter, the first evening-length solo by Meg Stuart. I watched the American choreographer perform it a couple of months ago in Essen, and scenes and images from it have been coming back to me regularly, since. Hunter, a piece about memories. The Venice Biennale wanted it on its programme last June, and the well-respected German magazine tanz awarded Meg Stuart the title choreographer of the year for it. The piece will have its Belgian premiere this week at Kaaitheater, Brussels.

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Karaoke with Kafka… and seven dancers: Daniel Linehan’s ‘Karaoke Dialogues’

Posted in dance, Kunstenfestivaldesarts with tags , , , , , on June 5, 2014 by Utopia Parkway

He sure is a smart thinker. But this time it seems Daniel Linehan has done a bit too much thinking. With the unfortunate result that the gifted, Belgium-based American choreographer has squeezed much of the air out of his newest piece. The Karaoke Dialogues? Seven dancers reading aloud fragments from literary classics that appear on tv-screens, while they dance. When describing a karaoke night you would probably be choosing words such as loose, funny, spontaneous and light. For Linehan’s take on karaoke, my guess is spectators will be ending up with words as formal, cerebral and tedious.

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Exploding buckets and erupting volcanos, or ‘J’ai toujours voulu rencontrer un volcan’, by Gwendoline Robin

Posted in art, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, performance with tags , , on May 23, 2014 by Utopia Parkway

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All of a sudden: a fire, and a gust of heat that makes you quickly step back. Or how Gwendoline Robin succeeds, seemingly out of nothing, in what she set out to do: to arrange an encounter with a volcano for you. J’ai toujours voulu rencontrer un volcan, is the title of her performance: I’ve always wanted to meet a volcano. The Belgian visual/performance artist premiered it during Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), at a fitting location: the huge, empty customs depots of Tour & Taxis.

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Straight-facedly in search of the superlative of slow motion: Maria Hassabi’s ‘Premiere’

Posted in dance, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, performance with tags , , , on May 13, 2014 by Utopia Parkway


Funny how the dullest evenings in a theater can be the ones that stay with you the longest. Whereas the only thing you could think while you were watching the performance, was: hope this ends soon. But when you’re home, you realize the questions keep your mind busy. Why on earth did they do what they were doing? What was it they wanted me to experience? Premiere, by Cyprus-born, New York-based, director/choreographer Maria Hassabi, whose work (aptly described by The Financial Times) ‘appears as often in white boxes as in black’.

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A 92-year-old lady, an anarchist, an Afghan refugee, 51 women and 49 men, ánd one dog: ‘100% Brussels’ (Rimini Protokoll)

Posted in Kunstenfestivaldesarts, performance, theatre with tags , , on May 8, 2014 by Utopia Parkway


You wonder how they pull it off. On stage: 100 people, a group that is an exact representation of the city these 100 individuals are living in, Brussels. Women, men, older people (the oldest participant is 92) and children. Belgian citizens and foreigners, and of course a couple of illegal immigrants. (That’s why there are actually… 105 people on stage.) Through the answers all of them give to lots of questions 100% Brussels should teach you a thing or two about Brussels. The performance, by Berlin-based Rimini Protokoll, was one of the opening performances of this year’s Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels).

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‘Museum To Scale 1:7’, or how to make Barbie & Ken love Belgian contemporary art

Posted in art with tags , , on December 13, 2013 by Utopia Parkway

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A miniature museum? Entirely devoted to Belgian art? With an online extension? Who wouldn’t be intrigued? After closer inspection I have to conclude that for the time being, Museum To Scale 1:7 doesn’t live up to the expectations. It’s a museum in need of a PR-assistant and a better curator. The more than hundred miniature rooms are on view through February 2 at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Brussels) and will travel to Naples (Florida) and Rotterdam in 2014.

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Kaleidoscopic sketchbook from outer space: ‘Sketches/Notebook’ by Meg Stuart & Damaged Goods

Posted in art, dance, performance with tags , , on December 9, 2013 by Utopia Parkway


A cowbell, lots of marbles rolling over the floor, a bag lady from outer space, and a drum kit producing sound without a drummer. I promise it will happen to you too. After Sketches/Notebook by Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods, you’ll find yourself sitting in the bar, with a smile on your face, humming the theme of a big blockbuster movie, slighty confused, trying to remember all the things you’ve just seen. Serious? Sketches/Notebook is a dance performance with such a kaleidoscopic scope that it ends up being something much more than a dance piece. Art collectors should be bidding for it.

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Two wind-up boys in an absurdist tale: ‘The Old Woman’ (Willem Dafoe & Mikhail Baryshnikov, directed by Robert Wilson)

Posted in theatre with tags , , on December 1, 2013 by Utopia Parkway


Perfection can be boring. I guess it came down to that. On paper it looked very enticing: the great Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov in a play directed by the equally great Robert Wilson, based on a piece of absurdist literature, a novella by Russian writer Daniil Charms. I sure spent a wonderful evening, at deSingel (Antwerp), watching The Old Woman, a splendid piece of theatrical machinery at work. But did it leave a lingering impression, apart from that? No.

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Triangles on the dancefloor: Eleanor Bauer’s ‘Midday and Eternity (the time piece)’

Posted in dance with tags , , , on October 2, 2013 by Utopia Parkway

'Midday and Eternity (the time piece)' (Eleanor Bauer; photo: Danny Willems)

It was a brave question, at the post performance talk, hesitantly phrased by a member of the audience. By then Eleanor Bauer had been talking for a while about her new performance, Midday and Eternity (the time piece), the last part of a trilogy. Why, did he want to know, was there such a big gap between everything the Brussels-based American choreographer had based her performance on (the philosophical thoughts, the choreographic exercises) and what we had actually seen on stage, at Kaaitheater (Brussels)? It was exactly the question that had been bugging me too.

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