Tapping Vandekeybus’s energy

The charismatic contemporary Flemish choreographer, director and actor Wim Vandekeybus first came to Greece about a decade ago to appear at the Kalamata International Dance Festival. Now he is back, after a succession of local appearances, as part of the European tour of his latest production, «NieuwZwart,» which he will stage tonight and tomorrow at the Technopolis arts complex in Gazi (100 Pireos) as part of the Athens International Dance Festival. Meanwhile, the Trianon cinema on Patission Street (21 Kodringtonos, tel 210.821.5469) will also host screenings of Vandekeybus’s films «Blush» and «Here After» from Thursday to July 22. «I studied cinema more than I did dance,» this versatile artist admits, and this, he says is apparent in all of his work, including his latest contemporary dance production. «NieuwZwart» (New Black) features a film, a text, live rock music and six dancers diving onto the stage and swimming in and out of a screen. In the first act the black cloth backdrop is gradually absorbed to become color, to become movement. Who can forget «Blush,» an older piece in which the dancers appear to float like creatures suspended in water? This is the magic delivered by an artist who is not afraid to break rules, cross boundaries and push his dancers to new heights. Kathimerini caught up with Vandekeybus just after a rehearsal at the Gazi venue. What inspired «NieuwZwart» and what can the audience expect? This is my 26th project. I think I like telling stories through dance, abstract, vibrant stories. In this piece I used new dancers and new ideas that make it stand apart from older work. We rehearsed for about three-and-a-half months to the live music, which is also part of the performance, and this is also a very nice, new element. Music, dance and theater all belong to the same ball of energy. And the idea of energy, the energy of primitive tribes and the repetitive nature of their rituals are some of the things that inspired me. I think that it is also about how we reinvent ourselves, about rebirth. How would you describe your method as a choreographer? I have my fair share of fixations. I like exploring means of communication and not restricting my work to one medium. I also like direct communication. In my case this is expressed through an extreme vibrancy, a dark vibrancy that stems from the subconscious. My work is not necessarily rational; it has more to do with energy. It is a contemporary yet primeval trance – that’s how I would describe it. Starting with the mind Wim Vandekeybus started off studying psychology and, even though he soon abandoned it, his interest in the complex relationship between body and mind has been unflagging. A workshop on the Flemish playwright and director Paul Peyskens enticed him to the theater. He took dance classes and eventually also tried his hand at cinema and photography. In 1985 Vandekeybus passed auditions with the celebrated Jan Fabre and stayed with his company for two years. After meeting the painter and photographer Octavio Iturbe while touring with Fabre, he moved to Madrid in 1986 to join a group of young amateur dancers in their maiden production. Ultima Vez’s «What the Body Does not Remember» premiered in June 1987 at the Toneelschuur Theater in Haarlem in Amsterdam. The performance’s energy was met with some skepticism at first, but critics later warmed to it and it was invited to many stages around the world. Since, Vandekeybus has created some 20 dance performances and a similar number of videos and films. Most have received awards and all have been seen by international audiences.