in the Category: art
See and hear at the very same time
On June 11 and 12 Alexander Vantournhout will be performing Snakearms and Vanthorhout, two impressive dance productions that enclose a deeper message. Vantournhout studied contemporary dance at P.A.R.T.S., the infamous school founded by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, and single wheel, juggling, and dance acrobatics at ESAC. We managed to catch this admirably busy bee - which he most certainly is - for a short but lovely interview. ‘I have to thank my former gymnastics teacher for the body flexibility I can profit from nowadays.’
Interview by Victor Seys
Photos shot by Bart Grietens
Hi Alexander, can you introduce yourself to the public?
I’m mostly active as a choreographer and circographer for Not Standing vzw. Besides that, there are my solo projects as a dancer as well. I’m an artist in residence at Kunstencentrum Vooruit and an associated artist at Centquatre Paris and Cirque-Théâtre Elbeuf. Lately, I’ve been teaching young dancers and I have to admit that I love it! The inspirational two-way energy currents you get in return are priceless. It also really helps me to profoundly rediscover my own work. That being said, good and valuable teachers in the world of dancing are quite rare these days. But, in the long run, a solution to a puzzle can often turn out to be more beautiful than the actual puzzle.
How did you come up with the idea for Snakearms and Vanthorhout?
In a world that slowly moved away from tactility, the handshake was one of the only remains as direct and real physical contact with the other. Now, this handshake has been replaced by an elbow, foot touch, or even just a simple nod. Starting from this rather formal first body contact, we transformed a simple handshake into an intricate hand, arm, and limb duet. Our bodies tangle up to a mishmash of arms and legs, with joints twisting to an extent that the outside eye loses track of it. We actually created this duet to remind people of the more tactical times, which now carry more importance and meaning than ever expected.
We created this duet to remind people of the more tactical times, which now carry more importance and meaning than ever expected
With Vanthorhout, a work in progress, I want to question our perception of power and tell certain inspirational stories which include a hammer - such as the legend of Thor - in a refreshing way that suits the 21st century. The use of a short-handled hammer obviously reduces its strength and capabilities. The question here is, when do you lose the power to manipulate this inefficient tool and when does this hammer take over control? What if these images of power suddenly collapse?
What can be told through dance which can’t be told otherwise?
The language of dancing provides the possibility to see and hear at the very same time. No action-reaction, but a very straightforward way of simultaneous communication between the participating dancers. No doubt that dancing has always been a universal language that belongs to the people, although it can differ in cultures and religions. Spinning your body around, for example, is in certain religions a meditative exercise to fight anxiety and panic attacks.
There’s no age limit to dancing, but you do have to adapt your dance to the physical limits of your body
How has this isolated period been for a busy bee like yourself?
Pretty heavy at first, because all my activities were relentlessly being put on hold. But later, behind the scenes, I’ve been more active than ever before: I made Snakearms, excessively rehearsed Through The Grapevine, taught at P.A.R.TS., wrote numerous performances... Too much to mention actually. I also wrote an opera for the Opera Ballet of Flanders in Antwerp. Unfortunately, it got postponed by two years just like many of my other projects. The premiere is now scheduled for 2023.
Is there anything like an age limit to professional dancing?
My only advice is to listen to your own body. There’s no age limit to dancing, but you do have to adapt your dance to the physical limits of your body. The key is to maintain this healthy balance. That’s a thing we do as well. Unlike ballet, for example, we create our own types of dancing that aren’t regulated. We’re free to do whatever we and our bodies feel comfortable with.
I can now fully enjoy a night out without being worried about my moves
Any tips for young ambitious dancers?
As far as I’m concerned, it’s extremely difficult to become a professional dancer nowadays. A good teacher is a rare godsend, as well as a differentiated and quality education. Being allowed into a proper school is already one huge step forward. Then try to act as a sponge. Absorb any kind of influence and always seek that wider view on multiple disciplines. Finally, it’s up to you to find out which works best for you and then stick to it. Don’t focus on immediate results: be unique and have faith in your process.
Can you still enjoy a dance party without worrying about your moves?
That’s a really good question (Laughs). During my education, I was still struggling to draw a clear line between party dancing and regular dancing. Too much thinking and consciousness were the evildoers here I guess. But now that phase is completely dealt with; I can fully enjoy a night out now without being worried about my moves (Laughs). Let’s hope we can all do this together again real soonish.