marc vanrunxt

Dance as transformation and disorientation

Sara Colson, Janus 18/5

on Marc Vanrunxt by Sara Colson 

Marc Vanrunxt was fifteen when he had his first contact with dance. Now, thirty years later, he is a dancer and choreographer who occupies a unique position in the dance world. Far from conforming to trends, he is always attempting to redefine the notion of choreography.

The following is a summary of a conversation with Vanrunxt on, among other things, his motivations, influences, movement and multimedia work. He spoke about two of his recent pieces, drifting (2002) and Unspeakable (2003).

Curiosity has always been Marc Vanrunxt’s greatest motivation. He wants to know; he pursues experiences and insights. His main focus is the quest for the heart of that transient medium, dance; he is motivated by the question of the possible meaning of movement. ‘One of my motives is to repeatedly try to redefine where the power of the dance medium lies.’ He is also very much concerned with the development of his own way of working, which for the last few years has been marked by collaboration with other artists. He has for example worked with Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Koenraad Dedobbeleer, Robert Cash and Danai Anesiadou. The basis of such joint ventures is invariably provided by the recognition of a similar sense of aesthetics, which Vanrunxt seizes upon in the attempt to create unity between diverse elements contributed by different people. ‘It is an encounter, but in the setting of my own world, my handling of material, people, music and so on. I have seen that the result is strongest when all the ideas are centralised, when they arise from a single source and when we understand each other as well as possible. I believe that everything together should form a single body.’1

drifting (2002)

drifting is a solo I originally made with the intention of performing it in the foyer of a theatre. For Anno 02, the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of the Golden Spurs in Wevelgem, I performed it in the open air. It touches on the subject of ‘location’. And of course the title refers to something that has no fixed abode, something that roams.

It was a performance full of suspense because the setting meant I had to let go of all the usual certainties, which resulted in the piece radiating both an enormous power and yet also a vulnerability. In fact these are the two extremes I am constantly in search of, in addition to ‘the unknown’.

In drifting I was confronted with a suburb and a tremendously sceptical audience as a consequence of its being their first encounter with the medium of dance. The location itself was also quite exceptional because of the intimacy the streets and brick-built houses evoked in spite of their publicness.

The soundtrack was provided by Koenraad Dedobbelaer, who wrote an initial ‘script’ in which he describes practical gestures and simple ‘states of mind’, and which for about twelve minutes was read out by a female voice. The monotonous way it is read gives this soundtrack a magical and invocative power.’

‘My intention in drifting was to gradually, and initially almost indiscernibly, separate myself from the initial commonplace situation without distinguishing myself from the bystanders by any theatrical appearance or lighting. I make an attempt to transform the space by performing simple stepping and rolling movements, both forwards and backwards, by touching the people very lightly, by trying to push away walls. In this instance the attempt itself is of capital importance, since this transformation is of course unachievable, so that drifting evokes the credo of the impossible.’

‘Another important aspect of drifting is confrontation, the contrast between inside and outside. Not only do I separate myself physically from the space and the spectators, but my consciousness also separates itself from the situation. By dancing much of the piece with my eyes closed, I try to give shape to this process of internalisation. I am also aided in separating myself from the surroundings by moving in what I call ‘another rhythm’, by which I mean performing movements slowly with the greatest concentration.’

Unspeakable (2003)

Unspeakable is based on the opera Neither, which the composer Morton Feldman created using a libretto by Samuel Beckett. The title, Unspeakable, is a word that appears in the libretto and which refers to what cannot be expressed, the impossible, and darkness. I also linked it closely to extracts on darkness quoted from Rupert Sheldrake’s Science and Spirituality, more especially on the power of darkness and the solidarity between people in the dark. I tried to translate this theme into theatrical terms. I tried to translate the focus and the concentration, coupled to looking from out of the darkness at something, into what I could perform. For example, I created an all-embracing experience of space, movement, light, darkness and sound for the spectator by making the theatre completely dark for several minutes while the music oppressively goes on and on. I also attempted to make Feldman’s music visible and to give it structure. Another important factor was the influence of Fernand Khnopff, the late-nineteenth-century Brussels symbolist painter, because of the strength and the potential found in his work.’

Unspeakable, made for and danced by Kitty Kortes Lynch, revolves round a highly spatial expression of these various sources of inspiration. Since the intensity of the music cannot be matched we developed a parallel line. This gave rise to a structure and form of time and space in which Kitty acts as the central point and medium in a disorienting bottle-green plastic space designed by Koenraad Dedobbeleer. I consider ‘disorientation’ to be the key concept in Unspeakable, and I try to induce it by transforming time and space.’

1. Peeters, Jeroen. Een eerbetoon aan de verbeelding: choreograaf Marc Vanrunxt over zijn nieuwe solo ‘Unspeakable’. On