Does the search after one's origins (whatever they may be), play a role in your choreographic work?
Without a doubt from the time I studied at Mudra (Béjart's old dance school in Brussels) I had to make the question of origins my own. We were the three "little Belgians" in a class of 25 students, most of whom came from far away. What's more I was the only one, at least at the beginning of my studies, to live with my parents. I found myself in an uncomfortable position: torn between two camps, that of the art world, polyglot, multi-cultural, a world both passionate and fascinating and that of a rather conventional family, although with a little distance not so much so...
After school all my classmates or almost all of them scattered around the world, while I stayed here. Rather alone - at the end of the 1970s very few choreographers had chosen Brussels as a base. While today the opposite is true...
The recent performance Migrations, which was created in March 2011, speaks of nothing else than the delocalization of the self and the mental circumventions caused by this. We touch upon a confusion of identity due to the pursuit of a new place to live, of voyaging avatars, who finally arrive in a sort of no-man's-land, a corridor of exile, where solidarity is absent and where the initial goal of a better life or simply one that is possible dissolves into the anonymity of a refugee camp. At the beginning of the show, there was a fascination with the migratory flight of birds. But this fascination with voyaging also became tainted with the difficulties humans have with immigration and integration. What was beautiful with the birds became charged with more painful things when transposed on human beings.
Is the work of dance about searching for anchorage, an identity lost or endangered by the incessant displacement of the dancers?
Even before the question of displacement, there is something particular about dancing: contrary to musicians, for example, we are our own resonance chamber. The question in dance is not just one of identity. There must be the transformation of the self into an instrument: how to come to terms with this everyday body and the melodies supposed to emerge from it? The balance cannot be found in stability. The moment we freeze a position it becomes fragile. Something must always stay mobile within us.
While on tour, I love to walk around the city where we're performing without any particular destination in mind. Breathe in the place where we are, feel the vibrations there, which will carry me on to the stage. I don't know if it is perceptible. But I think that people's temperaments, the way they move, are an influence on my own body, as these are things that get communicated very quickly.
For you, does the idea of cultural affiliation still make sense within the current context of globalization?
At the beginning of its existence the company toured in some exotic places, Sub-Saharan Africa, Mexico, and this generated a preoccupation with signs: how a form, a subject born out of our cultural modes may be perceived or felt elsewhere. For example the question of the symbolism of different elements (like the title of a show, the color of the costumes), the social role a dance fulfills, was asked of us in Kinshasa during a tour me made at the end of the 80s. It was clear that our reading of the show was very different, the symbolic aspect being almost absent from our preoccupations while being extremely important for the Congolese audience that questioned us; that for us the dance could be separate from social ritual etc. But beyond these different points of view, these left-brained commentaries, our right brains, our sensibilities, the physicality also, really vibrated together!
And also: there where cultural difference plays an obvious role, is with humor. A performance that made a Danish audience laugh left the one in Sarlat (France) disoriented and worried about our pessimism - and it was really striking as the performances were just a few days apart: while they laughed a lot in Copenhagen, the French asked us why we had such a dark vision of existence.
In the end, the tours have taught us that the more we dig into what is intimate, the more chance we have of joining the other, whatever our culture or origin may be, and that art plays a big part in that. It is not a window, we leave that to folklore or to tourism, it is the capacity to speak, to join each other by the underground tunnels, secret passages, it is the secret which is part of the alchemy of creation.
Is your "Belgian culture" reflected in your work? How do you play with it?
To know if an identity - why not Belgian - has shown up in our work, it suffices to look at Patrick (Bonté) and myself, who gave birth to this two-headed company, navigating the feminine and masculine poles, one with a sensibility that is more theatrical and the other, let's say more choreographic. In all of our performances we find this duality which is also characteristic of the bi-community that is Belgium, of this country where the street names are in two languages. Whether it be through the alternating of creations (the blueprint for a new show is systematically launched by one and then by the other), whether it be in the artistic material itself or behind what appearances always hide, or by the body most often divided, broken up in complimentary and contradictory gestures, or when the intention never hinders the form, but coils around it, never completely modulating it.
All this complexity is natural for the one as it is for the other and no where else but here could such a creative world be born; in this miniscule and torn apart country, badly glued together, dismembered - is it really a country, by the way? Nothing is less sure.
Our approach was also born at certain moment in time and in a place where everything was there to be created. Where we didn't have to bear the weight of tradition, of a cultural background: we really had the impression that everything was there to be invented through a dramaturgy of bodies.
A country of painters also, it is in accordance with our determination to create images on stage, a moving image certainly, but one that is deciphered like a painting: the codes needed to access it are the same: whatever the level of abstraction may be, painting suggests, evokes, hides while showing...
A country where we keep a low profile, a country of ambiguity, of false look-a-likes. A country where the spotlight is uncertain, where rigorous classification is impossible, where we can get lost in a handkerchief in a pocket.
I come from a family where twins (my father and my uncle) married two sisters (my mother and my aunt) and I grew up in a house that was doubled, where children amused themselves in two beds... The number Two has become inseparable from my way of thinking: a slight schizophrenia, drawn to doubling, to ambivalence, to the sedimentation of sense.
Could you create somewhere else?
We have, with the Company, worked on several occasions in other countries. And we have perhaps a new project with dancers from South Africa. I find the opportunities to encounter other cultures fascinating. They open up the way we look at things. But I see these moments as passages, that will enrich the work once back home. I remember having gone back to dance, working with movement after having watched a long time some Touareg people, while traveling in Agadez: obviously we were never like them, but their way of moving, the way that they carried their bodies, gave me the desire to question our own way of walking, the way we live our movement.
On the other hand, to create, wherever it might be, I need to be surrounded by trust and friendship, to feel that things get constructed for the long term, written into a long path.