For the sake of artists everywhere
We cannot remain silent on issues like the seizure of Ata Khatab Updated March 1, 2021 The seizing and jailing of a Palestinian dancer is part of the silencing of cultural critics in Israel, writes the University of Auckland's Professor Nicholas Rowe COMMENT: At 4am on February 2, Palestinian dancer and choreographer Ata Khatab was awoken roughly by Israeli soldiers in his home in the West Bank city of Al-Bireh, blindfolded, handcuffed, shoved into the back of a jeep and taken to the Al Moscobiyeh detention centre. I found that opening sentence very difficult to write. Not because I have known Ata for 15 years, seeing him grow from a conscientious 13 year-old attending my dance classes and more recently working alongside him as a co-author and artistic collaborator. It is also not because I know that since 4am on that Tuesday morning he has been intimidated, interrogated, deprived and tortured by foreign soldiers. No, my problem is more technical: as a writer I want to be concise, and yet convenient words like arrested, captured and imprisoned are so strongly wedded to other concepts like crime, due-process and justice. If I was to more simply write “Ata was arrested”, then queries like “Why? What did he do?” would inevitably gallop forward in the minds of readers not privy to daily life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Like so many young artists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories abducted by Israeli soldiers during the past five decades, Ata did not do anything that a liberal humanist might consider illegal, unethical or immoral. And like those artists before him, he will not face a fair judicial process, he will be presented with charges that are cloaked in secrecy (under the well-exhausted guise of Israeli security) and he will not have an opportunity to contest his capture before a politically impartial judge. He will be placed in what the Israeli military innocuously calls administrative detention; a term that suggests some sort of after-school photocopying task. As Judith Butler reflects, however, within this process Palestinians experience “forcible detention without a clear communication of crimes committed, and it can last indefinitely, since it deprives the detained of recourse to courts for review and release”. In the context of Covid-19, those imprisoned are exposed to greater risks of infection and denied adequate medical treatment. Administrative detention has inexorably been used by the Israeli government to oppress and stifle creativity, productivity and cultural community in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for decades. Many male and female Palestinian artists who I have interviewed have experienced administrative detention, and reflect on their experiences of interrogation, torture and depravation. Ata’s own father (a founder of the EL-Funoun Popular Dance Troupe and one of the leading pioneers of folk dance performance in Palestine) was captured and placed in administrative detention several times, in cycles that were extended and renewed for up to one year at a time. Through this disputed legal caveat, the Israeli government has a well-exercised weapon aimed at disrupting local cultural activity and discouraging others from standing tall and dancing proudly. Maintaining the cultural exclusion of Palestinians, administrative detention entrenches what the leading Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has recently acknowledged as as an apartheid regime of government in Israel. It inhibits creative, artistic activity amongst Palestinians, and restricts Palestinian artists from engaging with artists across the world. In the case of Ata, this is very unfortunate, as he has so effectively worked with leading international artists, like Les ballets C de la B and KVS Theatre from Belgium, among others from around the globe. Ata has also critically investigated the complexities and challenges of cross-cultural artistic exchange in Palestine, within an article that we co-authored for a book on Grassroots Leadership and Arts for Social Change. As a dance teacher for the next generation of Palestinian artists, Ata leads the El-Funoun dance training programme; most recently we collaborated on a dance film project. Ata has now been excluded from all local and global artistic activities and is held in small cell, until such time as the Israeli government feels inclined to release him. While artists around the world have taken to social media to protest his detention, on February 24 a closed military court determined he must spend another nine days in interrogation at Al Moscobiyeh, so Israeli soldiers might have more time to induce some form of ‘confession’ from him, to justify further detention. At the same time, artists and academics inclined to point out this injustice and openly discuss the entrenched racism and apartheid policies that underpin the Israeli military’s activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are similarly at risk of exclusion. Cultural critics of the Israeli government are becoming increasingly ostracised and wrongly accused of anti-Semitism across Europe and the world. As Brian Eno recently pointed out, “This is the work of tyranny: create a situation where people are frightened enough to keep their mouths shut, and self-censorship will do the rest.” For the sake of artists and cultural inclusion everywhere, we cannot remain silent on issues like the seizure of Ata Khatab. Professor Rowe lived in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from 2000-2008 and is the author of 'Raising Dust: A cultural history of dance in Palestine'.
https://www.newsroom.co.nz/ideasroom/dancing-in-chains?fbclid=IwAR1BwyS8XykWEOsRzt1GcIUF6a5JYLkugQpkDL6M76yLzsA2gB48pNDTod0 newsitem added on 03.03.'21
New Co-laBo in the studio
Belgian dancer and choreographer Cassiel Gaube is currently working on
Soirée d’études during the second part of his Co-laBo residency. Cassiel is developing his work at the intersection of contemporary dance and Hip hop and Clubbing dances. In 2019 Cassiel created the solo Farmer Train Swirl – Étude. He is now expanding the research set out in this solo: together with Federica "Mia" Miani and Diego "Odd Sweet" Dolciami, two Paris-based dancers experienced in Street dance, he is creating Soirée d’études: a trio exploring the rich vocabulary of House Dance in an ever-evolving and expanding series of études. Because of the corona measures, it’s not possible to organise public open rehearsals. The premiere of Soirée d’études was planned for November 2020 in Paris, followed by a tour in France and Belgium. Most performances have been postponed to a later date. We hope that the show can be shared with an audience soon. For more info and playlist, click here. newsitem added on 24.02.'21
“How can the history that is written in bodies, speak to us? Not just history in collective bodies, but also in the bodies of individual people?”
This was one of the questions from which Koen Augustijnen, Rosalba Torres Guerrero and Hildegard De Vuyst set to work with ten Palestinian dancers in the summer of 2012. The result was a fully-fledged performance: Badke – change the places of the consonants and you arrive at dabke, the Palestinian folk dance. 10 young Palestinian dancers from various disciplines (contemporary dance, hiphop, circus) took the dabke as starting point and confronted this locally rooted dance with elements from worldwide pop dance culture. So Badke became a double quest: one that conveys the unique Palestinian desire to ‘belong somewhere’, and at the same time the wish to be part of a world beyond that. was a collaboration between KVS, les ballets C de la B and A.M. Qattan Foundation. After a worldwide tour, the performance closed in December 2016 in Vooruit Gent. But thanks to the registration of Beeldstorm, you can Badke watch the performance here (again).
newsitem added on 10.02.'21
Ten years after the world tour, the stars of
Gardenia reunite. Or not quite. Andrea has left us forever. And as she went, so did Tina Turner. Eight of them now, they continue. Eight individuals so special you will want to get to know them. Want to embrace them. Directors Frank Van Laecke and Alain Platel and composer Steven Prengels join forces again for the revival. Different times, same cast. . Pre-première in NTGent on July 16th, première at ImPulsTanz on August 7th + tour. Gardenia – 10 years later newsitem added on 15.02.'21
Between peeping in and reaching out
Between peeping in and reaching out Does the corona context yield anything artistically or is it just a loss? Will new forms of creation or presentation emerge alongside digitalisation? Are we left with nothing but thwarted plans and a bottleneck for the coming years? Can something of value flourish on the playground delineated by protocols? Or are occasional projects always second-hand, because they do not stem from artistic necessity? We have had to cancel everything at les ballets C de la B that involved an audience. Rehearsals ( ) and residencies (Co-laBo) could still go ahead, but the board with the tour planning was wiped clean until the summer of 2021. Then Mein Gent Gardenia will be resumed, the 'transvestite show' with eight survivors of an average age of 75. With what we now know about the vaccination, it could work. If you want to take a look behind the scenes, you can watch the film Gardenia - Before the last curtain falls on VRT.nu (available until 31/01). When the agenda was empty, the question arose: what is still possible? And what needs to be done? We focused on the long term, from 2023: les ballets C de la B will look different in the future. We are a house in transition, on the way to transformation, like the travesties in Gardenia, a slow shedding between an old and a new identity. That calls for a ritual. "Someone once advised me to decide before New Year's Eve what I would like to 'take with me' into the new year and what I would most like to leave behind in the old. I was to write this on a note and throw it in the campfire." Thus began Rebekka de Wit's very inspiring New Year's letter in De Standaard der Letteren on January 2. While looking at her burning note in the fire, de Wit reflects: "Sometimes I think it would have been better if I had publicly declared what I wanted to leave behind, then there would have been witnesses who could have occasionally said to me: 'But isn’t that what you wanted to leave behind? Sometimes I even think that it would be better if we decided together (and I am in fact thinking of the whole country) what to leave behind and take with us to the next year. Because it is so difficult to leave behind on your own the things you want to get rid of, but at the same time are so attached to." A week later, it turns out that de Wit has misunderstood the assignment: Oh, said the person who had recommended the ritual: "Then I haven't explained it properly after all. Most attention should go to what you want to take with you, and what you leave behind is a consequence of that. So you should always start with what you want to take with you." We at les ballets found these inspiring thoughts: that you start with what you want to take with you, and that you can't do it alone. We enlisted the help of curator Pierre Muylle (S.M.A.K., MAD, etc.) and had many lively discussions about what we wanted to take with us and what we wanted to leave behind, and how we could shape that ritual with intimates but also with the wider community, the public, you, whom we need for that. We ran into pitfalls that we called 'nostalgia' or 'surrogacy', or ran into the arms of 'conceptual' and 'meta'. To put it bluntly, we are far from decided, but we already know a few things: we are planning a public but intimate tour of our offices and workspaces, at a pivotal moment in the company's history. The result will be a zigzag between a collection of curiosities and a political pamphlet, between a trophy case and a document, between testimony and imagination, looking back to the future. Between peeping in and reaching out. It is created by opportunity, but already feels like a necessity. Scheduled for May, more info soon via our website. newsitem added on 01.02.'21
... we wanted to keep it big
Many opted for a reduction in scale, but we wanted to keep it big. Just imagine: a 1000-strong audience that could be completely absorbed into singing together corona-proof. This is what we wanted to achieve in December 2020, until the second lockdown put an end to it. How and where, our dramaturg Hildegard De Vuyst described in a contribution for Danst, Danspunt’s Magazine (#4, 2020). When the agenda was empty, the question arose: what is still possible within the measures that COVID-19 enforced? Many opted for a reduction in scale, but we wanted to keep it big. Because les ballets C de la B is the company of the grand gesture. No solos for us. How could we make something with lots of people for lots of people? Together with Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, we thought about alternatives. It goes without saying that an orchestra pit is not suitable as a workplace in times of infection. We had to expand, and our eye fell on 't Kuipke, the beautiful velodrome in the centre of Ghent, next to the S.M.A.K. The city of Ghent wanted to join us, as corona had already left empty spaces in the calendar. They gave us fourteen days, the unions at the OBV wanted to join us and Vooruit, as an expert in receiving the public. An unprecedented alliance took shape. Artistically, we were going to make a virtue of necessity: a composed programme with repertoire that choir and orchestra had mastered, no new pieces that required rehearsals. The orchestra could safely take its place in the Kuipke courtyard, and the choir would be set up in a single spectator's area. The dancers could walk from the catacombs onto a catwalk to be built, above the heads of the orchestra members. Director Alain Platel envisaged that at the end everyone would sing Va pensiero together, known as the slave chorus from Verdi's Nabucco. O mio patria si bella e perduta. Perhaps preceded by the words of conductor Riccardo Muti: that the homeland is lost when culture is killed. When he uttered those historic words at the Milan opera before inviting the audience to sing along (but on the beat!), his words referred to the cuts that were hitting culture in Italy too. Today, on top of that comes a virus that not only attacks lungs but also eats away at culture. It makes any shared experience impossible, reduces parting to immediate family and excludes the community, and turns the other into a potential danger that we give a wide berth. We wanted to offer a great and comforting gesture in return. We went to extremes, up to and including the inspection of the ventilation system of 't Kuipke, necessary to get an exception for limited spectator numbers. But the second lockdown has disabled all good intentions, and the grand gestures. newsitem added on 28.01.'21
Necropolis online at Vagamondes festival
Organized by La Filature in Mulhouse (FR), Les Vagamondes festival offers an international and multidisciplinary outlook and strives to overcome borders through various artistic works. This year’s online edition will be devoted to the Mediterranean space. It presents a focus on Arkadi Zaides’ most recent works
Talos and Necropolis, that both question the migratory movements happening in Europe and at its borders. Talos by Arkadi Zaides : VIDEO N° 387 disparu en Méditerranée, by Madeleine Leroyer, of which the research has inspired Arkadi Zaides for Necropolis : FILM Necropolis by Arkadi Zaides : VIDEO During the creation of Necropolis, Arkadi Zaides had a residency at ballets C de la B ( ). If you want to know more about it, please, continue the reading on how we met Arkadi Co-laBo #18 here. newsitem added on 18.01.'21
How are les ballets C de la B doing?
There are many people who ask us what the impact of COVID-19 is on the work of les ballets C de la B. We cannot tell this story without telling another one, a story that had already begun before the lockdown or corona virus came to enrich our vocabulary. The impact of COVID-19 on les ballets C de la B is huge - we are no different from others in the performing arts. But at the same time, corona came to reinforce a transition that started two years ago. Where we are today has more to do with the thorough rethinking of long-term operations than with the temporary management of a sanitary crisis. For les ballets C de la B, it will never be business as usual again. That line was drawn the day before the premiere of Requiem pour L. in January 2018. Director Alain Platel, lynchpin of the company, indicated that he no longer could or wanted to bear responsibility for the wellbeing of the employees. The company had been reorganized exclusively around his work from 2013 onwards. In 2017, a modest development trajectory was added in the form of the Co-laBo’s. No matter how enthusiastic Platel was about this residency program, his creations remained the driving force for the company. Every creation had to be a bull's-eye; every tour had to live up to the programmers' expectations. The ups and downs of about thirty people depended on it: performers, technicians, seller and administration. That is a heavy weight on the shoulders of just one person. It used to be different: the burden was carried by many creative shoulders. Until 2012, les ballets was a platform for various choreographers, but the then advisory committee for dance objected. They only wanted to support the organisation if it would organise itself exclusively around Platel's work, something that passed his own wish to share. For the outside world there was no problem. On the contrary: applause all-round for the percentage of own income that les ballets C de la B achieved, often thanks to solid international tours and co-productions. From the inside, however, we understood with advancing insight that the economy on which the company was based was gradually destroying us. Platel was on the verge of exhaustion, and staff had to deal with depression and burnout as well. Things had to change. We wanted a clean slate. For Requiem pour L. the tour was still done the old way in collaboration with Frans Brood Productions (more than 130 dates); for Mein Gent, the new creation, it would be radically different: first three weeks of playing at Vooruit in Ghent, then imagining how to set up the project needing the participation of a 100 volunteers elsewhere. And above all, for the future, we wanted to look again for various artistic partners and reconnect with the DNA of les Ballets: one nest for many broods. Then the pandemic broke out. We were one week before the premiere of C(H)ŒURS 2020 with Opera Ballet Flanders, with performances in Ghent and Antwerp, and the prospect of a historic version in the antique theatre of Epidaurus for the Athens Festival. Performances of Requiem pour L. were planned in Canada and the USA (Erna and Valerie worked on the administrative preparations for almost half a year - visas for Congolese and South Africans, which has become much more difficult these days). Out of Context-for Pina was intended for Festival de Marseille, Nicht schlafen at the end of the summer for Calabria. All this was scrapped, and the team became technically unemployed. From September we started up again, with residencies of Arkadi Zaides and Cassiel Gaube. Although the premiere was postponed for a year until January ‘22, the rehearsals of Mein Gent got off to a flying start with Steven Prengels, Frank van Laecke and Alain Platel at the table, and - at a safe distance - Pascale Platel, Gorges Ocloo and Ineke Nijssen. At the start of the lockdown we had already decided not to play/tour until July ‘21. This brought peace in the ranks. We tried to let all rehearsals and residencies take place as much as possible, and tried to develop new working methods and artistic ideas - which we would like to elaborate on in the next newsletter. If we look back, we have to conclude that there have been a few casualties in the planning. Nevertheless, all in all, the damage is limited, because the transition to a different way of making and touring was already underway. The financial loopholes were plugged with government support measures: subsidies are being paid while employees go into technical unemployment. Many things have been postponed but not lost, such as C(H)ŒURS 2020 which is now planned in OBV, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, for March ‘22 or the C de la B workshops in Tunis. Requiem pour L. will not, however, get a second chance. The Congolese and South African performers received compensation for lost income from the company because they were not eligible for Flemish support measures. We are weathering the hurricane because in recent years we have already taken steps in a direction that is only being reinforced by COVID-19. This means that we are refocusing on the local connections, and are fleshing out our strong international presence differently. The future will once again be based on a sharing economy. From 2023, the start of a new subsidy period, we will be working with new partners alongside Alain Platel. This is the perspective that is keeping our heads up for the time being. We will be happy to tell you more about this in our next newsletter. The team of les ballets C de la B
newsitem added on 18.01.'21
The premiere in the Vooruit Arts Center is postponed to the next season (2021-2022), but this doesn't stop Frank Van Laecke, Alain Platel and Steven Prengels from exploring material already. Together with Ineke Nijssen, Pascale Platel and Gorges Ocloo, they working during a first rehearsal period at the creation of
Mein Gent in autumn 2020. On Saturdays they were joined by a group of Ghentians, for the time this could be organised conform the corona-measures. , a production of les ballets C de la B and the Vooruit Arts Center. To be seen in the 2021-2022 season. We will keep you informed of the performance dates. Mein Gent newsitem added on 27.01.'21
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here and you'll be added to the mailinglist which we only use to announce these open studio moments. newsitem added on 16.10.'20
Since 2004 les ballets C de la B lends its active support to a cultural boycott of Israel. Because of the increasing tension, les ballets C de la B relaunches the call to support the cultural boycott of Israel. Alain Platel emphasizes the relaunch with an open letter:
Open letter by Alain Platel (les ballets C de la B). Ghent, 12 October 2015. I would once again like to make a clear call for the support for the (cultural) boycott of Israel. I really am not much of a hero and it is always with a heavy heart that I swing into action, when I feel that it is necessary. It is even harder when I am forced to disagree with fellow artists – whose work I admire immensely – in this respect when they claim that these kinds of actions or statements either are not ours to take or make, or don’t help matters whatsoever. My (artistic) collaboration with Jewish and Palestinian artists, both in the Occupied Territories and here in Belgium, however, leaves me no choice. Since my first visit to the Occupied Territories – in 2001, and this during the intifada – I became convinced that the resolution of the conflict in this part of the world could be crucial and could give a huge boost to a positive development in the whole region, and by extension, East-West relationships as a whole. Of course, this is very naïve and utopian, but I believe that harbouring such utopian hopes is a good thing. After all, I see very little or no evidence of how the existing political and military structures do/did get things moving. And this is why, more than ever, I want to make a plea for a delicate, yet special citizens’ initiative: the support for the (cultural) boycott of Israel. Recent hot news from this region only reaches us when unspeakable cruelties are inflicted on Jewish citizens. We are not told, however, what actually triggered them. It always seems as if yet another Palestinian extremist brutally attacked innocent Jewish civilians in a moment of insanity. What we don’t hear, for instance, is how Jewish settlers and other extremists meanwhile are allowed to engage in constant (often violent) provocations; what’s more, under the continuous protection of Israeli soldiers, in the Palestinian districts, at the Al-Aqsa mosque and by extension, permanently and everywhere in the Occupied Territories. Photographer Filip Claus has recently made a short film about such an event in the city of Hebron. This is a Palestinian city on the West Bank (so-called Palestinian territory!) with approximately 200,000 inhabitants, where 800 illegal settlers live who are permanently guarded and supported by some 2,000 (!) Israeli soldiers. The Jewish settlers take regular ‘sightseeing walks’ in the Palestinian part of the city, accompanied by a small army of Israeli soldiers, at that … A daily (!) shocking, provocative presence. This is one instance of continuous harassment, besides the much more radical actions. Gaza is still an open-air prison; land, properties and possessions of Palestinians are still being systematically and illegally confiscated or simply destroyed. Illegal settlements are still being built every day in Palestinian territories. Every day, Palestinians are still being harassed, discriminated against, picked up, locked up or – where ‘necessary’ – simply shot. The OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), a United Nations humanitarian organisation, for instance, regularly publishes the shocking figures of the ‘invisible victims’ who are killed there every year. (see: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_the_humanitarian_monitor_2014_10_02_english.pdf). You could ask yourself here how it is possible that, at first glance, Palestinians seem to respond to this in such a resigned way. The massive military protection, the continuous legal and administrative preferential treatment of Jewish settlers, and selective reporting encourage this. As many have been predicting for a long time, this inevitably leads to radicalisation on both sides, which we have clearly seen increase for some considerable time now. And as many have been predicting for a long time, we once again find ourselves on the brink of an intifada. The third intifada, as it is being called. And if this one, just as predictably, is crushed in a horribly violent way, the situation may calm down again for a while … as we wait the fourth intifada and the fifth, the sixth … etc. to kick off. Unless much more, clear pressure is exerted on the Israeli government(s) to work on real, constructive and permanent solutions. A (cultural) boycott is nonviolent but is incredibly irritating and with ardent advocates such as archbishop Desmond Tutu is in very good company. Alain Platel les ballets C de la B Info about the Belgian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel: www.bacbi.be www.vrede.be More information about the point of view of les ballets about the cultural boycott, can be read via this link. newsitem added on 10.05.'19
Les ballets C de la B wants to invest in the next generation by taking in residents who will get the opportunity to be coached in their work by director Alain Platel and Hildegard Devuyst, Platel’s dramaturg for more than 20 years. The basic idea are one-month-residencies in one of the studios at les ballets. There are no prefixed artistic conditions, no exclusives when it comes to form or movement language. Young artists who think their work would benefit from a residency, can apply by mailing to Hildegard De Vuyst.
email@example.com newsitem added on 18.10.'17
les ballets C de la B supports HART BOVEN HARD Hart Boven Hard is a citizens’ initiative that unites individuals and organisations concerned about the planned policies of the Flemish and federal governments. Ranging from students and pensioners to social and cultural organisations, they all aim for a society that opts for ‘heart before hard’. The initiative was born in Flanders and is gradually expanding into French-speaking Belgium too. The francophone counterpart goes by the name of Tout Autre Chose. More info: www.hartbovenhard.be newsitem added on 22.11.'19