From dancing as a hiphopper on the streets without ever taking any classes to becoming one of the dancers in Wim Vandekeybus’ company Ultima Vez, Yassin Mrabtifi has come a long way. Now he’s taking himself another step further by making his own solo performance From Molenbeek with Love. A piece that talks about social inequality, Molenbeek but also about similarities between cultures. For sure an eye-opening experience.
Interview by Elice Spillebeen
photos by Danny Willems
We created a small company called No Way Back
How did you get into dancing?
I started doing hip hop in train stations and everything evolved from there. At some point, my friends and I wanted to get more professional, we were curious about where we could get with our material, so we created a small company called No Way Back. Our first performance turned out to be a big success which inspired me to keep doing what I was doing. Dancing became a way of expressing myself. It gives me this strange feeling you can’t buy with money. It’s a way of dealing with my frustrations. When dancing I imagine myself in a field of war. There’s action everywhere and you move, not knowing what is going to happen next. Dancing is this duality for me of being completely in the moment and the minute after that big relief that follows. Just like running superfast. It’s a way to empty myself.
How did you end up at Ultima Vez?
When we performed our piece with the company at a theatre, the head of that theatre came to a friend of mine who was a breakdancer, saying that there were auditions going on the day after at Ultima Vez in Molenbeek. I was surprised when I heard it was in Molenbeek as I lived there and knew the dance scene but had never heard of it before. It turned out they were just new in the area. I decided to go and ever since everything feels like a fairy tale.
Theatre is some sort of safe space to show a different perspective
Where do you find your inspiration for dance?
I really like the place between hip hop and contemporary dance. For me that’s the place where I can really play. I tend to just go with the flow and enjoy the moment. I get a lot of inspiration out of making connections with people. I love to invite people over in my studio to dance. We don’t talk about anything, we just dance. We take this very seriously and tend to go very deep. That’s when you create something you can’t touch, that you can make bigger than yourself. Next to that I get a lot of inspiration from my environment. This can be anything, from the lines and bubbles in a wooden table to a combination of elements such as the sun that shines down on some metal.
What story tells From Molenbeek with Love?
I started from my own story, where I wanted to connect with people of my generation and people from the ghettos. I asked myself what the position and role of ghettos are in a cosmopolitan city and society. For people like us it’s hard to find our place in society, because you feel you don’t really fit in. Even in dance I felt it. Things started changing after the attacks. Since then I feel like we can have a voice, although it’s sad that this mind-shift in society only came after the attacks. In this piece I want to re-humanize people who look like me. When you talk about social problems today it quickly becomes very political, it’s always arguments against arguments. For me art is the place where you can doubt and question. Theatre is some sort of safe space to show a different perspective. Dance can be enough to understand and express a feeling. Feelings you sometimes can’t or don’t dare to express with words. In my piece I want to represent people who share the same story as me, but also the in-between cultures. Connected by the same feeling: fear.
From Molenbeek with Love takes place at KVS, Brussels between 18 and 20 April. More info here.