Wim Vandekeybus – Choreographer and Director of Ultima Vez

Wim Vandekeybus.<br />© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

Wim Vandekeybus.
© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

www.ultimavez.com
www.dannywillems.com

booty Looting is at the Southbank Centre Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 12 November 2013 and Wednesday 13 November: Details

“Art is stealing,” says Wim Vandekeybus from his base in Brussels. He’s talking about his current production booty Looting, which is (among other things) a look at how photography is produced and how various forms of art steal from one another. “I wanted to make a show with a photographer on the scene, and how in fact photography is stealing things,” says Vandekeybus, “and then to use that idea in general. Art is stealing, it’s always inspired by something.”
 

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus's booty Looting.© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus’s booty Looting.
© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

booty Looting (the title refers to “stealing what has been stolen”, or pinching what was already somebody else’s swag) is the choreographer’s 23rd work since What The Body Does Not Remember crashed onto the European dance scene in 1987, and the first Ultima Vez production to tour to the UK since Spiegel in 2007. A visit from the company is something special – Vandekeybus has a healthy following in the UK but there are relatively few opportunities to see his extraordinarily physical, frequently confrontational works in the flesh.
 

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus's booty Looting.© Wim Vandekeybus. (Click image for larger version)

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus’s booty Looting.
© Wim Vandekeybus. (Click image for larger version)

A quarter-century after forming Ultima Vez, Vandekeybus shows few signs of slowing either his output or the curiosity that drives it. booty Looting is a love letter to the visual arts, an attempt to give audiences a glimpse into the creative process itself. “It’s kind of looking into a studio from without ,” he explains, “you see the photographer taking pictures and you see the result.”

The photographer in question is Danny Willems, an established documentary photographer and friend of Vandekeybus who appears live on stage as part of the production, taking 40 – 50 photographs each night which are shown on stage in real time. “So in the show people are creating things; we see each picture as he takes it. In this way it’s for the audience a very interactive show because it’s not only showing the beautiful result, we also show how it’s made.”
 

Wim Vandekeybus.© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

Wim Vandekeybus.
© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

Vandekeybus himself initially trained as a photographer, and is fascinated by the way that photography has technologically changed since he first studied it. “Now you can have instant photography, you can take a picture and see it immediately. 20 years ago that was not possible. And because of this I said, ‘I want to go back to still photography’, to how still photography can create a whole story.”

“I think it’s great how you see a photographer taking a picture,” adds Vandekeybus, “how his whole body gets merged with his camera, and how he gets a kind of hunger in fact. It’s beautiful to see a photographer taking pictures.”
 

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus's booty Looting.© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus’s booty Looting.
© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

booty Looting is also an exploration about how the visual arts can tell stories that are sometimes deceptive, or even self-deceptive. The show is in part inspired by the German Fluxus artist, Joseph Beuys, whose art often used animal fat and felt as materials. Beuys attributed the importance of these materials within his identity and his work to a rescue by Tartar tribesmen from an air crash during WWII which almost certainly never happened. “And so art creates its own myth to exist,” explains Vandekeybus. “Art creates things, it refers to existing things, it invents other things in a way that is really believable.”

In the same way, the current show constructs stories and personal histories that are delightful deceptions, with the photographs used during the show seeming to furnish proof of the stories’ truth until a final deconstruction. “This show is in fact very ironical, dealing with its own media, with art,” says Vandekeybus. “And we use it to illustrate something imaginary in a very contemporary way. There’s a kind of nonchalance of not only performance but also of creating the performance, how people come to tell something, the spontaneity.”
 

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus's booty Looting.© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus’s booty Looting.
© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

London audiences will be able to celebrate a wealth of local talent in the current cast – actor Jerry Killick, who has previously collaborated with Vandekeybus, joins British dancers Luke Jessop and Kip Johnson alongside German actress Birgit Walter, dancers Elena Fokina and Dymitry Szypura, photographer Willems and live musician Elko Blijweert. “So it’s a very diverse show,” says the choreographer, “very different media.”

Vandekeybus points to a playful impulse behind the show’s complexity. “I think that the seriousness of the media itself drops away, and it allows suddenly a much more complex structure; there is a kind of interesting interaction there which is new for my work, and it makes the audience more intelligent in a way.”
 

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus's booty Looting.© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus’s booty Looting.
© Danny Willems. (Click image for larger version)

“I think it’s been too long we have not been in London, so I’m really looking forward to coming back,” he adds. “I hope people see the evolution of how we work, and I think it’s also a very good show for London. I think people will love it, I’m really looking forward to the reactions of people. This show’s a big puzzle of different things. You see the photographer taking pictures and you see the result – you see the whole studio.”

booty Looting is at the Southbank Centre Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 12 November 2013 and Wednesday 13 November: Details

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Lise Smith is a freelance dance manager, teacher and writer. She regularly contributes to www.londondance.com, Arts Professional and www.londonist.com. You can check her updates on Twitter at: @Lisekit

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