Les Brigittines International Festival 2018

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Euripides Laskaridis in Titans. Photo © Elina GIounanli
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A many-layered thing: contrasting takeaways of our Springback writers at Les Brigittines, Brussels, reflect the genre-crossing styles of the festival itself

Salva Sanchis: Radical Light

Oonagh Duckworth

I’ve come to trust my own internal lie detector: shivers run though me and the hairs on my arms stand up if what I’m watching is really doing it for me. Salva Sanchis’s Radical Light provoked one such moment of truth.

They say that once you let up on something you’ve been grafting away at, things slip into place. At his own admission, Sanchis has been taking work very seriously for the last two decades, and Radical Light was announced as his swansong. The idea of combining his musical, structural and improvisational acumen with the pleasure of getting-on-down on the dance-floor came to him while listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The resulting fine-tuned marvel has five dazzling dancers, one woman and four men including Sanchis himself, immersing us in movement generated and synchronised through a choreographic version of Chinese Whispers, on 120 beat-per-minute electro score. We are in communion with their action for the whole hour: the piece confirms how wonderful abstract dance can be.


Euripides Laskaridis: Titans

Francesca Pinder

‘Choreographer’ in Greek literally means ‘writer of dance’. In Euripides LaskaridisTitans, ‘writer of space’ might be more fitting. Every aspect of the performance is space and prop-centric – plastic flowers levitate when watered, unsuspecting bins spray jets of water – and each action and scene reacts to them. The stage is an eclectic toy box: carpets, fake flowers, polystyrene, ironing boards, swings and bins litter the space. And it’s these objects that rule this crazy court, while our pantomime host, a mismatched figure with an engorged head, prosthetic nose and clip-on tits, welcomes us to an after-party.

The wacky mix of magic and the mundane provide some nice imagery, but at some point is all this cluttered stash just, well, flash? A constant supply of cheap slapstick and manic, high-pitched laughing quickly turns these inventive quirks into gimmicks.

During his post-show talk, Laskaridis revealed that one of his studio rules was to always feel as happy as he did when he was a child performing on stage. Fine for the child – but Titans left me feeling more like a disgruntled babysitter than a doting parent.


Salva Sanchis’s Radical Light. Photo © Bart-Grietens
Liberating Austrian folk traditions (1) Simon Mayer’s Sons of Sissy. Photo © Arne Hauge
Liberating Austrian folk traditions… Simon Mayer’s Sons of Sissy. Photo © Arne Hauge
Stash or flash? Euripides Laskaridis in Titans. Photo … Elina GIounanli
Sandrine Maisonneuve in Que du bonheue, by Tomeo Vergés. Photo © Axel Perez
A hypnotising solo triptych: Daniele Albanese’s Von Solo. Photo: Andrea Macchia
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‘A playhouse for movement: Les Brigittines International Festival

Simon Mayer: Sons of Sissy

Oonagh Duckworth

Thigh slapping, yodelling, willy waggling…snippets of Simon Mayer’s Sons of Sissy might lead you to believe that the performance is a jocular romp incorporating country-dancing and bromance. It does have us chortling at times, but the core of this work is far from lightweight.

Mayer, an Austrian-born musician-choreographer began digging into his roots during a period when he felt he was ‘losing his direction home’. Sons of Sissy is the second work in which he seeks to reclaim and transform the Austrian folk traditions that he learnt as a child. His wish is to liberate them from their dubious historical connotations and rigid gender roles, and craft a contemporary ritual that is as cathartic to watch as it seems to be to perform.

The four men dance naked for at least half of this one-of-a-kind piece: an irrefutable avowal of similarity, difference and vulnerability. Mayer has made a really personal work that nevertheless touches several of our current universal malaises.



Yasen Vasilev

In Que du bonheur (?) by Man Drake/Tomeo Vergés (France/Spain), Sandrine Maisonneuve moves sideways back and forth between the two ends of a white stripe to the rhythm of a metronome for the whole 30 minutes of the performance. Yet it doesn’t get boring: based on repetition and distortion of everyday movements, she metamorphoses from an uptight lady to a warrior diva, losing all inhibitions in the process and making fun of the stiffness of our social behaviour. Is it an issue that in commenting on the absurdity of female gender roles, she remains a performer for a male creator and director? Whatever the case, her theatrical delivery, using a variety of facial expressions and techniques, is fascinating.

It is also in stark contrast to the other solo on the double bill – the 18-minute Von Solo, a hypnotising, pure dance triptych for a male body moving from fluidity to convulsions, sometimes obscured by too loud noise music. Conceived and performed by Daniele Albanese (Italy), this visceral, energetic, intuitive, sometimes even ecstatic ‘dancey’ dance refuses to deal with content or to comment on society, and instead focuses entirely on the subtle influence of movement.

It made me think. In the last few years I’ve heard a line numerous times, from various people in different contexts, as a first reaction to a piece: THIS IS NOT DANCE. On the one hand, programmers often seem divided as they struggle to comprehend and classify an increasingly complex scene. On the other, artists feel their work sometimes has difficulty finding venues if it doesn’t fit conservative expectations of the genre. A show mixing movement and text might end up being rejected by both theatres and dance houses, each using the same argument: THIS IS NOT THAT.

Personal taste is an erratic guide, so defined criteria can certainly be useful – yet isn’t it time to think beyond genre and bring the conversation to the quality of the work, and then articulate, position and defend our choices? Les Brigittines have done it on this contrasting double bill, and rightly so. They self-describe as ‘a playhouse for movement’ – a territory that should be open to the richness and variety of movement in contemporary performance, no matter its background or technique. 

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Les Brigittines, Brussels, Belgium (17/08/18–01/09/18)
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Full details on Les Brigittines website

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