Anyone associating ‘De Keersmaeker’ and P.A.R.T.S. mainly with ‘dance’ is surprised by the fact that over three quarters of the ‘choreography’ and performance informing Somnia pivots on the narratives adapted from William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595/96) and Johannes Kepler’s Somnium (1608)—the former being much more recognizable in the show than the latter.
“You have to sit on the side of the stage. You’ll see that when you enter you have the option of sitting on the left or the right. In front of or behind the stage. Sit on the left or the right”, a friend cautioned as we separated and I made my way to Dana Michel’s performance Cutlass Spring. Upon entering the black box the audience must choose which perspective and subsequently which position they wish to occupy for the duration of this piece. This introductory question is one of many which Michel, a choreographer and live artist, asks us to consider.
In a common statement, 275 artists and cultural workers share their view on the future of Kaaitheater: “We appeal to the board of Kaaitheater and the persons involved in the selection process for its new director to take into account the broader consequences their decision will have for the future of artistic life in Brussels and Flanders. (…) Our concern is especially directed to younger generations of artists who are at risk of starting in a cultural landscape which is no longer able to support and to nourish their trajectories.”
American dancer and choreographer Trajal Harrel marks his first appearance at Brussels’s renowned Kunstenfestivaldesarts (KFDA) with a show which borders performing arts and visual art. Made up of two parts: Dancer of the Year and Dancer of the Year Shop—the former, a dance performance, the latter, an installation-performance—the show’s interdisciplinary nature resonates with the recent 2019 edition of Performatik, the Brussels biennale for ‘live art’, which has just ended.
A bust of Aristotle stares out at the audience. A vaguely Romantic-style landscape depicting men riding horses next to snarling dogs hangs from the ceiling. I have no idea which exact painting it is but that hardly matters. It’s familiar, as if it were from any gallery in Europe. In amongst this miniature impression of a museum, Thomas Bellinck sits on one of those typical minimalist-style benches commonly found in museums. Bellinck is no stranger to these spaces, having already created a future museum to the former European Union in his previous work ‘Domo de Eŭropa Historio en Ekzilo’ (‘House of European History in Exile’). This new work provides ample critique of the cultural institutions that uphold the Europe’s problematic version of history.
‘Penelope Sleeps’ begins in medias res. Three performers, lying as though dead onstage, and a small harmonium plus, I suspect, a Casiotone await you when you enter. You too take a seat onstage, the audience forming a semicircle around the performers, and you look out into the darkened auditorium where you usually sit during a theatre performance. Still lying with her back on the floor, Mette Edvardsen starts telling a story about a small spider in her parents’ guest room and the fear that this type of arthropod fills her with. Telling comes down to reading aloud: both Edvardsen and the audience see the text projected in three languages on a small screen that hangs front right.
I can give two accounts of Sachli Gholamalizad’s solo performance Let us believe in the beginning of the cold season, which premiered on May 11 at KVS in the frame of KFDA. First one: It is a show by a very virtuosic performer, sliding back and forth between semi-autobiographical storytelling, video interviews of Gholamalizad’s mother, spoken poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad’s verses, and singing; a show that is built on the hyphenations of the performer’s identity across Iran and Belgium, with the modular light and screen fixture as a material aid for, as well as a metaphor of, such division of sense of belonging. This account is not necessarily untrue, and it wouldn’t spoil the work’s pleasure for the potential viewers. The other story I might tell is less pleasant, and precisely about the problem of pleasure.