Memories in a row

Memories in a row

Michaela Preiner

Foto: (Yako One )


July 2022

This year, the Impulstanz Festival is showing productions by international dance greats like a non-stop stream. Wim Vandekeybus was represented with two new works. After his show 'Hands do not touch your precious Me', he showed "Scattered Memories" at the Volkstheater - a retrospective of 35 years of Ultima Vez.

Those who expected a scandalous performance or an emotional rollercoaster, as the Belgian has often been known to do, were proved wrong. Scattered Moments” turned out to be a cleverly made replica with countless quotations from previous works, highly aesthetic and intelligently conceived. Right at the beginning, Wim launches into a solo performance in which he talks about an early engagement in Helena, in the state of Montana, which took place in a “county jail”. At the end of the performance, hats flew onto the stage in excitement – a gesture the ensemble was unfamiliar with.

Wim has just finished his story when Saïd Gharbi appears, the blind dancer who has been his friend and collaborator since the beginning of his work with Ultima Vez. Suddenly Saïd throws him a white brick. In his very first work with Ultima Vez, “What the body does not remember”, there are many white bricks that play a central role in this choreography. The white brick, now placed next to Vandekeybus at the edge of the stage, forms the opening of a contextual bracket. It contains not only props from past productions, such as the aforementioned stone, but also film and video clips, as well as choreography quotations from productions of the past decades. Even Saïd’s white shirt, which he talks about with his friend on stage at the beginning, appears in several earlier productions.

Those who have seen much of Vandekeybus will also recognise much in this production. Like that recording by Carlo Verano, a German variety artist who was friends with the all-round artist. “Immer das Selbe gelogen” was a tribute that Wim dedicated to Carlo and in which the then 89-year-old made a singing appearance in bed. That the evening is nevertheless not a flat stringing together of quotations is thanks to the strong choreographic dynamics, which go hand in hand with equally strong musical recordings and allow the various scenes to flow seamlessly into one another. The music alternates between popular hits like “There is a hole in the bucket” by Harry Belafonte and Odetta, but also lesser-known ones, but is always characterised by clear rhythms.

The dance vocabulary features acrobatic floor numbers as well as those jumping cascades for which Vandekeybus is so well known. The weightlessness that becomes comprehensible for seconds in the process is something he has also captured in his films. It can also be seen in many film stills in which his dancers float freely in the air. Again and again he resorts to this stylistic element, but it never appears singularly, but mostly in a rapid sequence, performed by his ensemble one after the other in short intervals. Including Wim Vandekeybus himself, there are 23 people dancing on stage this evening. And each of them is recognisable in their individuality.

Alexandros Anastasiadis, Laura Aris Álvarez, Borna Babić, Maureen Bator, Tim Bogaerts, Damien Chapelle, Pieter Desmet, Saïd Gharbi, Rob Hayden, Germán Jauregui Allue, Luke Jessop, Kit King, Maria Kolegova, Anna Karenina Lambrechts, Anabel Lopez, Tanja Marin Friðjónsdóttir, Lieve Meeussen, Yassin Mrabtifi, Magdalena Oettl, Eddie Oroyan, Aymara Samira Parola, and Mufutau Yusuf perform solo, but also frequently in groups of 2 or 3.

What can be seen is incessant kicking and pushing, holding and catching each other, which in many moments has aggressive and brutal features. But also the choreography from “Inspite of Wishing and Wanting”, in which individuals repeatedly step out of the group and perform dream dances, while the ensemble at the edge of the stage has assumed sleeping gestures. The gliding across the floor in different variations is strongly reminiscent of movements in figure skating, which reinforces the somnambulistic situation.

One interview scene takes on a particularly humorous note, as it is not Wim Vandekeybus who is being interviewed, but the “journalist” does not seem to notice. After all, some cleverly placed statements are dropped in this interview. In them, the historically important work that Wim created with his group over the decades is highlighted. A self-congratulation that isn’t one because of the setting, but still doesn’t miss its mark. Nevertheless, there is no getting around the fact that the Belgian choreographer wrote dance history and he knows it.

Towards the end, Saïd hurls “I have come to sell you your last words” at Wim. They are also from an early production, but in this context they get a different twist.

With “Scattered memories”, Wim Vandekeybus created a bulging cornucopia from which one memory after another pours over the stage. Memories that tell of joy and permanent work as well as of family happiness with children, but also of anxiety, dreams, old age and farewells. Nothing, however, suggests that the production is one with which Vandekeybus wants to say goodbye. He presents himself too vital with Ultima Vez and arouses curiosity about what is still to be seen in the years to come. Ad multos annos!

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