Wim Vandekeybus (b. 1963)

Roseland (1990)
La Mentira (1992)
Body, Body On the Wall (1997)
In Spite of Wishing and Wanting (2002)
Blush (2005)

Director, choreographer, actor and photographer Wim Vandekeybus was born on June 30th, 1963 in Herenthout (Belgium). Brought up in a rural environment as a son of a veterinarian, Vandekeybus was often in contact with animals in their natural environment. These experiences had a great emotional impact on him. Animals, their movements, their instinctive reactions and their trust in their own physical power are often integrated into his performances.

He began his studies in psychology in Leuven, but did not complete them, irritated, as he says himself, by the surplus of 'objective science'. His interest in the complex relationship between body and spirit remained. A workshop with the Flemish theatre director and playwright Paul Peyskens brought him into contact with theatre. He followed some dance courses (classic, modern, tango) and took up film and photography.

In 1985 he auditioned for Jan Fabre. Vandekeybus was chosen and during two years he travelled the world with the The Power of Theatrical Madness, playing one of the two naked kings. While touring with Jan Fabre he met painter/photographer Octavio Iturbe in Madrid, who later became an important artistic collaborator.

In 1986 he withdrew for several months in Madrid with a group of young, inexperienced dancers calling themselves Ultima Vez (Spanish for 'Last Time') to work on his first production.

In June 1987 What the Body Does Not Remember premièred at the Toneelschuur in Haarlem (the Netherlands). The dancing in What the Body… was powered by the music of Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch. With tempestuous energy and strength the performers made daring leaps, launched themselves into the air and smartly intercepted each other's falls. Bricks were thrown above each other's heads. Every gesture had to stick to an absolutely precise timing; the performers put their trust in and surrendered to their instincts.

Although the première was received with scepticism, the performance was soon being presented on international stages. In 1988, Wim Vandekeybus received the Bessie Award in New York for this production, which was credited “a brutal confrontation of dance and music: the dangerous, combative landscape of What the Body Does Not Remember.”

Since What the Body… Wim Vandekeybus has created nearly twenty performances with changing international casts and has made nearly as many film and video productions. From his very first performance, music has been an important stimulus for his productions. He has commissioned works from, among others, Peter Vermeersch, Thierry De Mey, David Byrne, Marc Ribot, Eavesdropper and David Eugene Edwards.

In 1989, after a residency at the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine d'Angers, he created Les porteuses de mauvaises nouvelles. For this creation Wim Vandekeybus received his second Bessie Award.

The Weight of a Hand (1990), an on-stage confrontation of actors and musicians, was based on the choreographic material of the first two productions.  In that same year Wim Vandekeybus also created - with Walter Verdin and Octavio Iturbe - the dance video Roseland, placing the choreographic material of his first two works in the remarkable setting of a dilapidated Brussels cinema.

Immer das Selbe gelogen (1991) was a sensitive portrait of 89 year old German variety artist Carlo Verano and of Vandekeybus' friendship with the man.  While the first performances are characterized by a lack of coherence or storyline, more narrative and theatrical elements crawl into his creations: texts, literary, mythological and philosophical references.

In June 1992 Wim Vandekeybus and Walter Verdin directed La Mentira, a dance video based on Immer das Selbe gelogen, recorded at deSingel in Antwerp, and in the rough and deserted landscape around Granada in the south of Spain.

For Her Body Doesn't Fit her Soul (1993) Wim Vandekeybus collaborated with non-seeing dancers for the first time: blindness becomes a metaphor for the submission of the body to its instincts, for vulnerability and the fragility but also the strength of the body.

The short film Elba and Federico, also directed by Wim Vandekeybus, was part of the performance. From this moment onwards film became a constant value in Vandekeybus' work.

From 1993 until 1999 Wim Vandekeybus was artist in residence at the KVS (Royal Flemish Theatre).

A film - shot in Morocco - and short stories by Paul Bowles and Milorad Pavic, formed the theme for Mountains Made of Barking (1994).

In 1995 Wim Vandekeybus made Alle Grössen decken sich zu (1995), based on the life of Carlo Verano. This performance was considered as a theatre rather than a dance piece. During that same year Wim Vandekeybus also revived his debut choreography What the Body Does Not Remember.

Bereft of a Blissful Union, a large-scale piece which brought together on stage twelve dancers and twelve musicians, incorporating film and acting sequences, followed in 1996. The short film Dust, based on a scene from Mountains Made of Barking and part of Bereft of a Blissful Union as a video, was later released separately.

As a guest choreographer for the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company, Wim Vandekeybus created Exhaustion from Dreamt Love (1996).

For the first time since The Power of Theatrical Madness, he worked again with Jan Fabre in 1997 Body, Body on the Wall… is a solo written and directed by Jan Fabre for Vandekeybus, integrating a short film.

With Ultima Vez, Wim Vandekeybus made 7 for a Secret never to be told in 1997. Silver, a video adaptation of one of the scenes of the performance was released in 2001.

In 1998 Wim Vandekeybus and Franz Marijnen, stage director and artistic director of the Royal Flemish Theatre, worked together on The Day of Heaven and Hell, a performance about the life and work of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Franz Marijnen withdrew during the rehearsal period and Vandekeybus continued alone.

From 2000 until 2002 Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez were guest dance company at Teatro Comunale di Ferrara (Italy).

In Spite of Wishing and Wanting, a performance with male dancers only and with music by David Byrne, premièred in 1999. The performance incorporated the short film The Last Words, based on two surrealist short-stories by Julio Cortázar. A dance video adaptation was released in January 2002.

The decease of his father strongly influenced “Inasmuch as Life is borrowed...” (2000), life and death becoming the central themes of the performance and short-film that is part of it.

For Scratching the Inner Fields (2001) Vandekeybus collaborated with the Flemish author Peter Verhelst, a collaboration that was continued for Blush (2002) and Sonic Boom, a co-production with the Dutch theatre company Toneelgroep Amsterdam (2003).

In 2002 What the Body Does Not Remember was revived in the frame the 10th edition of the KLAPSTUK festival in Leuven. 

Inspired by the author Djuna Barnes, the young German actress Nicola Schössler directed Wim Vandekeybus in the solo ‘s NACHTs in the frame of the laboratory project De Stokerij (KVS/de bottelarij) during that same year.

Also in 2002, Wim Vandekeybus was asked by dancer and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui  to create a solo for him in the frame of Le Vif du Sujet (SACD / Festival d'Avignon 2002).  Starting point for it was the short story The Circular Valley by Paul Bowles. 

15 years after its première, Wim Vandekeybus revived his second creation Les porteuses de mauvaises nouvelles in collaboration with the Portuguese Companhia Instável.

A dance film adaptation of Blush, filmed in Corsica and Brussels, was released in January 2005.

PUUR, Wim Vandekeybus' latest creation for 13 performers, premièred during the Singapore Arts Festival in May 2005.

In 2002 a workshop with youngsters in the frame of the Brussels' literature festival Het Groot Beschrijf was the starting point for a series of projects with children and youngsters, lead by Wim Vandekeybus: Bericht aan de Bevolking/Avis à la Population (2002), Viva! (2004), Rent a kid, no bullshit!. After a few workshop projects, he is now preparing his first children's production based on Bêt noir, an adaptation of the Oedipus myth by Jan Decorte.

Next to Spiegel, the composed evening 20 years Ultima Vez, Wim Vandekeybus also created Quiebro in 2006, a guest-choreography for 16 dancers of the Spanish dance company Compañia Nacional de Danza. He also was one of the seven choreographers invited by the Flemish production house Victoria to create a choreography for a professional stripper in the frame of their project Nightshade.

In April 2007 Here After, the dance film adaptation of PUUR (2005), premièred.  The Flemish-Dutch house deBuren presented Gallop, a photo exhibition of Wim Vandekeybus' travels through Chile and Morocco, location hunting for his first feature film.

After the world première in the KVS (the Royal Flemish Theatre) in November 2007, Ultima Vez started the international tour of the new creation MENSKE (2007). In the frame of the 20th anniversary of the company several special events were organised at the AB Concert Hall in Brussels (BE) and during the Festival Automne en Normandie in Rouen (FR) in the autumn of 2007.

For the first edition of the summer dance festival Dansand, Wim Vandekeybus created Lichtnacht, a short dance performance for four dancers, presented on the beach of Ostend.

As a guest choreographer at the Göteborgs Operans Balett Wim Vandekeybus created a dance adaptation of Bêt Noir, a theatre text by the Flemish playwright Jan Decorte.  Black Biist premièred in the Göteborg Opera at the end of February.

The latest Ultima Vez production nieuwZwart (2009), with an entirely renewed cast, premiered in Barcelona at the beginning of May 2009. The Belgian rock musician Mauro Pawlowski composed the original score and performs the music live together with two other musicians.

In September 2010 Monkey Sandwich, a creation in which film plays a major part, premiered at the KVS in Brussels. Monkey Sandwich extols the pleasures of telling stories. Like today's urban legends, however, no one knows whether they really ever happened, though there is no doubt that people like telling them.

With the antiperformance RADICAL WRONG,which premiered during the International Krokusfestival in March 2011, Wim Vandekeybus wants to appeal above all to today's vibrant young people.