Dublin Dance Festival 2013 – Ultima Vez


‘Show without showing, what you know without knowing…’

Psyche, Massive Attack

Dublin Dance Festival 2013 was a special experience for me. For the first time in a few years I’ve made choice in favour of staying in Dublin and attending it instead of the usual job of shooting footage of ‘men-in-tights’ race the major cycling race in Ireland (the Rás). And I don’t regret it.

Out of a good selection of contemporary work I’ve seen three pieces, of which one deserves a mention and another stole my heart and melted my brain.

So, the first night we saw ‘Stravinsky Evening’ (Petruska and Hunt) by the Tero Saarinen Company from Finland. ‘Hunt’ is an interesting contemporary interpretation of ‘The Rite of Spring’ featuring a fabulous white tutu (hint of the dying swan?), striking strobe lighting that made the soloist literally look frozen in mid-air, and a ‘virtual siege of light’ multimedia projection on the dancer’s body, designed by Finnish artist Marita Liulia.


Tero Saarinen "HUNT" Tero-Saarinen_HUNT_1_credit_Marita-Liulia


This show was an attack on all senses. However, I felt that the enjoyment was coming more from understanding and visual effects, rather than through my heart.

The second night, watching Wim Vandekeybus’ company Ultima Vez with a show ‘What The Body Does Not Remember’ really changed a lot of things in me…

Explaining why you love Wim’s work is sort of like explaining why you fell in love with a car driver who knocked you down and gave you a concussion. “I don’t know but he made me feel something.”

You never fully understand why you love something or somebody. It goes through the body first, then creeps up onto your unaware being and, when it’s too late anyway, your brain pretty much gives up and suggest some half-reasonable explanations like ‘it’s the music’, or ‘it reminds me off my past’, or an even better one – ‘it’s chemistry’. The casts have changed over time but the spirit of this production is still breath-taking. The rehearsal for the show in the Abbey Theatre was beautifully captured by a music photographer and DDF volunteer Agata Kowalska.


What the Body Does Not Remember

What the Body Does Not Remember What the Body Does Not Remember

What the Body Does Not Remember What the Body Does Not Remember


Maybe it takes a psychologist turned actor turned director/choreographer to create something so chaotic and powerful, very simple and yet filled with meaning (usually afterwards and by the audience.) The show is a like a Rorschach test – in the same piece you can see butterflies (on a battlefield, as some critic said) or generations of relationships (in ‘family portraits’ piece) or just one (in the sketch with the sweater) or the violence and gentleness of love (in ‘frisking’) or the role chance and risk plays in life (in ‘brick throwing’ piece) or anything you want really…

The beauty of it for me was in the fact that none of those interpretations are written into the show. During the talk-with-the-cast the dancers revealed that all of the pieces were purely task-oriented, no hidden meaning or concept for them to project. One of the members said: “In ‘Frisking’ for example the task was simple – women are trying to get away, we are trying to stop them.”

Maybe it sounds like there is no story to it at all, no meaning behind the movement. But I find this approach very similar to what I felt about Stanislavski method acting, in which a physical act, a task becomes primary, and all the thinking-analysing-conceptualising and telling comes after. Then it creates a metaphor which can be interpreted by the audience, making it so much more personal, individual and leaving gaps to be filled with meaning by each of us.

Of course, I could be totally wrong, it’s a personal discovery after all…


WTB©DannyWillems-5829 WTB©DannyWillems-4432 WTB©DannyWillems-4275 Ultima-Vez_WHAT-THE-BODY-DOES-NOT-REMEMBER_5_Credit_WTB-©-Danny-Willems

photography by Danny Willems


Another interesting fact is that Wim’s work is only labeled ‘dance’ because the Belgian government, when allocating grants, gave him support from the ‘dance’ part of the budget. I’m not sure there would be a suitable name for his work anyway – perhaps ‘physical theatre’ would be closer. He is also a filmmaker who shoots dance, and a choreographer who uses film and photography in his shows:

“For me, the form has to be different every time. This is why on one occasion I might create an extremely musical show, then for my next project base a film on the experiences of one man, why I might then create a show for young people from which I keep well away, then switch to a classical mythology play or even an analytical piece in which photography plays a major part.”

The day after we went to see three of his films in the Irish Film Institute. It must have been a sign of fate for me to see it, because even though I forgot both my membership card and my wallet at home, and was late for the screening, the lovely girl at the ticket office let me in anyway (I suspect she was a DDF volunteer – if I could fine her again I would definitely buy her a drink).

So, we watched ‘Inasmuch‘, ‘7 for a Secret never to be told‘ and Blush, which made me feel like my brain is on drugs. Along with amazing music by Woven Hand composed by David Eugene Edwards, it features scenes like this (to ‘Mother Russia’) and an exceptionally haunting ‘Story and Pictures‘ at the end of the film. All three films are quite surreal and weird. ‘Blush’ made me feel uncomfortable. And sad. And very happy. And very inspired. So, I loved it.



I want to finish this rambling post with a poem by a Belgian poet Peter Verhelst, with who Ultima Vez and Wim collaborated on quite a lot of project.

In ‘Blush’ these lines, read out loud, make their own beautiful soundtrack…

 “And if you ever leave before I wake
I will follow you in dreams,
a snake around your feet, your arms, your neck.
Sleeping in your hairy day, chasing all your fears away at night.
Nothing’s right and nothing’s wrong,
just as long as you will stay.

But if you decide to disappear, disappear without the trace.
Don’t save a single kiss for me.
I will search and find a thousand seas to drown my memories of you.
Swaying hair like seaweed
Dolphins wear your smile.
Fish’s lips as soft as breasts.
Everything weighs less in water, even grief
So if you want to leave me,
but do it just the way a tear drops into the sea .”


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