ONE HUNDRED IDEAS an interview with Wim Vandekeybus by Ronnie Britton
Wim Vandekeybus, Belgian choreographer, actor, and photographer, created his own work center – Ultima Vez – following two years of work with Flemish avantgarde choreographer Jan Fabre. His first piece, What the Body Does Not Remember, toured Europe and the U. S. to great acclaim and was awarded a 1988 New York “Bessie” Award for its “brutal confrontation between dance and music within a backdrop of both danger and combat.” His, second work, Les Porteuses de Mauvaises Nouvelles (“The Bearers of Bad News”), was similarly honored in 1989.
A dance for one. A ballet about an old man, living alone with only his imagination to comfort him. Such is the theme of Vandekeybus’s new work Immer das Selbe Gelogen. Though certain aspects of his previous works – his famous “fall” techniques and the energy and power of his dancers – appear in this latest piece, his choreography here seems more intricate, diverse and elusive than before. His dancers are stronger; their dancing clean, very precise.
Immer das Selbe Gelogen is much more than a ballet. It is music, dance, film and theatre all fused into one. Wim and 1 talked backstage in his dressing room at the Stadsschouburg (Municipal Theatre) of Amsterdam, Holland, July 27,1991. [R£.]
Translated from the French by Ronnie Britton
Ronnie Britton: First of all, I would like you to talk a bit about the origin of this last piece, the idea behind its creation: Immer das Selbe Gelogen; “Always the same…” what, exactly?
Wim Vandekeybus: “Always the same lies,” [he says in English]. “Toujours les memes mentis” [I believe he means “mensonges”].
There is never one single idea behind my work as one can see while watching it. One of the things, however, that did inspire me to create the movements,
set and music; that helped me choose certain elements, from the dancers to the separation of the men and women in the beginning and their coming together later on, is an encounter I had with a very elderly gentleman, Carlo Verano, who lives in Hamburg.
Ronnie: Is that the gentleman we see in the video?
Wim: Film, not video. Yes. He’s an elderly man, 88-years-old, who lives alone in Hamburg. He had been, amongst other things, a dancer, singer. I met him by chance while I was shooting there. The beginning of the film that you see [in Immer das Selbe Gelogen] is about this encounter. He’s someone I visited every month, whenever I could. I interviewed him, wrote about him and all that. We worked quite a bit together. Not really worked but lived together for a while as friends. It was a tremendous source of inspiration. Even though I did develop a physical language especially for this piece, I worked a lot more with texts here than before. This represents a kind of evolution since my earlier work.
Ronnie: So, what we see then: the movement, choreography, this is all a result of the encounter with Carlo Verano?
Wim: On the one hand yes, on the other no. It’s also a result of other things with which I am trying to experiment. For me it’s always important…you can try and develop a particular movement and all that, but at the same time it becomes almost a kind of routine because you are still working with the same imagination you have always had; the same drive to search for movement, to try and make it more complex, more pure, or raw and above all for me, more energetic.