biography Marc Vanrunxt

Change and continuity are the two key words in the development of Marc Vanrunxt’s work. These two concepts are not contradictory. Quite the contrary, they inspire each other in a complementary way. The strenght of a good performance lies somewhere between recognition and discovery; between the history and heritage of what we think we know from the past and present. Vanrunxt tries to constantly monitor the balance between recognition and discovery in search for new relationships in which the body is the carrier of meaning. In his productions, the emphasis is on the intangible dimension of dance and the transformation of an empty room with light, colour and object. That penchant for frugality stems from a desire for minimalism, not as a style form, but an attitude.

Since he started making his own work in 1981 – he played a major role in the Flemish dance wave – the work of Marc Vanrunxt embodies a confrontation of expressionism and abstract modernism. In 1983, he debuted officially with Vier Korte Dansen. Although the great Flemish dance boom was still to come, the Dutch and Flemish dance audience, along with the critics, discovered him as a choreographer in those years. A year later, he brought Poging tot Beweging. His work was shown at festivals, such as Klapstuk in Leuven, De Beweeging in Antwerp, Springdance in the Netherlands, and in 1985, Kaaitheater and Klapstuk co-produced Hyena. The title of that performance also became the name of the first non-profit organisation which Vanrunxt founded and which would produce his work. A.Dieu (1986) was a performance in which Vanrunxt developed his fascination with theatrical costumes. These were also prominently present in the 1988 performance Ballet in Wit, the first performance for which he received a project grant, in fact.

In those early days, Vanrunxt developed some other obsessions in numerous smaller shows and collaborations, which would typify his work from then onwards. There is, for example, his fascination for both classical music and pop and punk – think of the use of music by Petula Clark, Jacques Offenbach, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Krzysztof Penderecki and Brian Eno – along with his detailed attention for costumes, lighting and stage design. For him, all these aspects of the dance performance became as important as the dance itself. From the late 80s and in the 90s, it became clear that Vanrunxt and his work adopted a prominent position on the Flemish dance scene: a wilful body of work, the thrust of which steadily developed further, immune to tendencies or fads: the desire for minimalism, but equally a desire for its own private universe and great expressiveness of everything that can be seen, heard and experienced on stage.

In the late 80s, there was a brief phase of introspection until the work of Vanrunxt found a second wind in the mid-90s. First there were Antilichaam (1994) and Dies Irae (1995), and in 1998, Vanrunxt performed a solo that was choreographed by Jan Fabre. New project grants followed, he was artist in residence at De Beweeging and at the end of the millennium, Patrick Sterckx cautiously put up a structural scaffold around the oeuvre. Vanrunxt turned his attention to the role of the audience. From now on, the idea that there is always an audience beyond the subject, became the premise of each production. The realization that dance communicates with its audience, was now paramount, and his dramaturgical insight matured accordingly. In 1997, there was Fortitudo, and in 1998, Antropomorf. In this performance, the quality of the movements became more important than the form. Vanrunxt demonstrated the movements less and less and from then, he merely described them to his dancer(s). Alexander Baervoets, with whom he would later set up Kunst/Werk, created his own 10-minute choreography within the performance. That way, authorship of the performance became a complex matter, something which would become commonplace in contemporary dance practices in subsequent years.

In Some Problems of Space Perception (2001), Vanrunxt joined forces with artist Koenraad Dedobbeleer for the first time. The show heralded a new phase in the work of Vanrunxt: from then on, not only would the dance itself, but also the space where there the dancing took place, be experienced as a proposal: a public proposal in the sense that an audience can take you up on it and is given the freedom to frame it in a specific context and at a specific time. Since 2001, Dedobbeleer has taken on the scenography of most of Vanrunxt’s performances. For example, he created Most Recent the year after (2002). While the audience was sat in one row in a square around the silver dance floor, Charlotte Vanden Eynde, Salva Sanchis, Marie De Corte and Vanrunxt each danced their own pattern of one hour in the space to music by John Cage, Grandmaster Flash, Morton Feldman and Jim O’Rourke.

To Vanrunxt, attending a performance is critical, as that is the moment when its history is written. A performance always writes its own history. The moment people dance, the choreographer adopts a position in a landscape. Vanrunxt has always been aware of this. Indeed, his poetics is also rooted in the 70s and 80s: his musical fascinations bear witness to this. At the same time, however, he rewrites history with each performance and grafts himself first and foremost on the present time: that of the performance, and that of the world today. In the previous decade, Marc Vanrunxt’s creations included Unspeakable (2003), Raum (2006) and showtitle #63 Black Mark (2008). Gradually, he turned his attention to solos for Kitty Kortes Lynch, Suzanne Grooten, Etienne Guilloteau, Lu Marivoet, Eva Kamala Rodenburg, Rob Fordeyn Igor Shyshko, Lise Vachon, Georgia Vardarou, Truus Bronkhorst and Marie De Corte. In 2010, Vanrunxt created the split-screen choreography For Edward Krasinski in close collaboration with choreographer Salva Sanchis. The music of Morton Feldman, Triadic Memories, was played live by Yutaka Oya of ChampdAction, the musical ensemble with which Vanrunxt often cooperates.

In recent years, Vanrunxt has focused on meetings and collaborations. Moreover, he has continued to work with the keys that have typified his work for many years. For example, he again used music by Morton Feldman in Real So Real (2015): Three Voices, a monumental and extremely unruly composition for three voices, one of which is sung live by Els Mondelaers. Furthermore, he has immersed himself in the music scene from the early years of his work as a dancer and choreographer. The latter, for example, was the case in Discografie (2013), a double choreography he created with fellow dancer Arco Renz for Rob Fordeyn. Fordeyn danced to a soundtrack for which Daniel Vanverre had dismantled and fragmented pop music from the 80s, which Vanrunxt and Renz had found in their record collection. In Real, So Real and several other projects on stage, he once again teamed up with artist Koenraad Dedobbeleer. With Katleen Vinck, he created Dune Street Project (2013), a performance that took place in her studio and where Vanrunxt staged the Laban space theory, along with another project on location – L’Art Touche au Ciel et à la Terre (Xavier Mellery, 1901) (2014) – with Igor Shyshko, who danced in the flood line of the North Sea. The latter project also led to the publication of Space Time Energy. 2014 saw the release of the film Dieper on DVD. This collaboration between Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven and Vanrunxt dated from 2003. October 2015 saw the creation of Atmosphere, for which Vanrunxt went to Istanbul and there, together with four Turkish dancers he had met in a workshop in 2014, was reminded of the political significance of dance and body in his work and in other socio-political contexts.

In addition to group performances and solos that he creates for others, Vanrunxt has always continued to create solos for himself. The most recent one was Dune Street Project (2013). Such solos require a different way of working, and they offer the choreographer, who was also dancer, a specific kind of freedom in terms of duration, location of the dance and collaboration with other artists. Vanrunxt exploits those freedoms to the full. Dune Street Project, for example, was a 120′-long solo in an installation by visual artist Katleen Vinck.
The practice of Vanrunxt still is radically contemporary. Just look at the way he works with both young and older dancers on the dance floor and how he treasures the creative process of every show as something sustainable in other ways, too. Look at how he seeks out the idiosyncrasy of a movement and often drives that to extremes. And finally, look at how he keeps looking for new challenges, in collaborations and/or as a performer, no longer on stage, but in an installation. Human movement takes on a wilful dimension in his work, time and time again, on stage or elsewhere, in a way that is historically substantiated. Just think of Rudolf Laban’s insights that pop up in work of younger choreographers again today and that feel very contemporary. The same applies to the subtlety with which Vanrunxt has the issue of gender resonate in his work. It even looks like the nuances of this issue becomes richer with every performance.

Vanrunxt received his first project grant in 1988 for Ballet in Wit, and from then until 2001, when K/W was structurally subsidized, he received this grant almost every year. The Flemish Government has supported Vanrunxt’s works for almost three decades. This shows great confidence in his work and in his role as a teacher, coach and artistically relevance voice – each of those roles being allowed to grow and consolidate thanks to the government.

In 2015, after years of producing work, Vanrunxt’s oeuvre is being closely followed by young dancers and choreographers. Marc Vanrunxt considers his activities as a mentor and coach for a new generation of dancers and choreographers as an essential part of his artistic practice. Colleagues and students often ask Vanrunxt for both intensive, prolonged and one-off artistic advice. Sharing and transferring knowledge, insight and experience is crucial in these encounters. In fact, Marc Vanrunxt has deepened his dance knowledge and has conveyed this knowledge as a mentor or teacher at PARTS and WorkSpaceBrussels, KASK – School of Arts in Ghent and the St-Lucas Institute and the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp or as a coach of colleagues.