Interview: Wim Vandekeybus Q&A

Friday 9 April 2010

Wim Vandekeybus. Photo: Erwin Verstappen Wim Vandekeybus is the Artistic Director of Ultima Vez, who are performing Spiegel at Sadler’s Wells, 9 & 10 February 2007, as part of a UK tour.

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Having founded his company Ultima Vez 20 years ago, Wim Vandekeybus is revisiting
scenes from his early work as well as more recent productions in Spiegel (Mirror).

He talks about his work past and present, and his thoughts on what happens next…

*You made Spiegel in the 20th year since you established your company Ultima Vez. It includes
extracts from many of your works for the company over the years. How easy [or
difficult] was it to select those scenes and make them work together?*

It was both easy and difficult. Easy because there is material for three more
performances. The difficulty lay in choosing and matching the scenes.

At first, it was more a work of elimination. All scenes that originally had a
strong theatrical connection to the content or theme of a certain performance
had to be left out because they could not be isolated from the original performance

So we started focusing more abstractly on the energy of the Ultima vez language.
We then had to kill scenes that were too similar to each other. Then of course,
there was also the aspect of the music. We had to make a choice from compositions
of 5 different composers with whom I worked over the past 20 years. At the end
I wrote something on a beer mat and that became the structure.

Do you revisit themes in your work, or is new work always addressing new issues?

Mostly new; I like to kill what was before … but even if the content is different
the form is sometimes relatable and vice versa. I don’t think too much about it
but the day I feel that I am busy doing what I already did before, I will stop.

*When did you first become interested in dance? Was it a particular company or

Originally I was more interested in photography and in film; two media to which
I am returning more and more. But then – through performing with Jan Fabre – I
came in touch with theatre and movement or dance. When I started making my own
work, I was thinking of it as a performance rather then a dance piece. What the
Body Does Not Remember became a very physical performance. It won a Bessie Award
in New York and suddenly everybody called it ‘dance’, while actually the piece
was not created by professional dancers, we were not working with the ‘contemporary’
dance language from that time. The result was a movement language created by the
performers and myself. Over all these years, and with the different crews I have
worked with, we have kept on developing this language.

*You originally trained in psychology. What impact has that had on the kind of
work you make?*

I studied psychology at university during 2 years, but never finished these studies
or practiced it professionally. So, in fact I only got the theoretical part. My
work is more the result of intuition, the intuitive psychology that everyone has
in his/her way.

Who, or what, are your main influences?

My youth experiences, writers, photographers (koudelka), cineasts (Kalatozov,
Cassavetes, Imamura, …), encounters with people, the world around us, …

What’s your favourite book?

The Dictionary of the Kazars by the Servian author Milorad Pavic.


Very varied kinds of music: of course Marc Ribot, David Eugene Edwards, David
Byrne with whom I collaborated but also Albert Ayler, Calexico, Daniels Johnston,

And Film?

The killing of a Chinese Bookie by Cassavetes.

*You are an actor, filmmaker and photographer as well as a choreographer. If you
had to pick one discipline to work in, which would it be?*

Filmmaker today, actor tomorrow, baker the day after…

*Film is often an integral part of Ultima Vez performances – and the films also
stand alone. What is your process? Do you consciously make two works – a film
and a performance – or does one emerge from the other?*

This depends, I made several short films as part of my performances, in which
the themes of the performance were approached from a different angle, or that
were part of the scenography. With film you can create a strong context/past of
the people on scene and thus enrich there existence.

Next to the short films, I also made dance films adaptations of my performances.

*Spiegel has been touring in Europe before coming to the UK. Have you noticed
if audiences in various countries have very different reactions to your work? * **Definitely. The way people react to a performance is very much connected with
the differences in culture and temperament.

Where does your company feel most at home?

In front of an audience.

What’s next for you – and for Ultima Vez?

A new performance in November this year and a feature film (no dance) next year
which is in full preproduction.


Article posted January 2007

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