Friday, 21 February 2014

Dancing to Letters of Love and Hate: Portrait Jens van Daele

Dancing to letters of love and hate: 
Portrait Jens van Daele

(Pour un version français cliquez ici)

In 2011, Belgian choreographer Jens van Daele received a message from a South African dancer he had previously worked with in Durban's Flat Foot Company, a company that endeavours to brings people of all backgrounds together with dance. She wanted to share with him a love letter she had received. 

I've put together a short two-minute film here with a recording of the letter that inspired an international choreographer to bring together musicians and dancers across Europe to collaborate and perform in Geneva, Switzerland, from the 27th February to the 2nd March. 

When Jens first read the letter, he asked his dance company, Burning Bridges, to write letters of love and then letters of hate. When they had written them, he asked the dancers to dance the letters to him and from these performances, a choreography emerged. The result was Portrait Jens van Daele, four days of dance and music at the Theatre Galpon in collaboration with French-Swiss musicians, Ensemble Batida.

Photography from Jens van Daele's Le sacre du printemps (Spring Tide) , Durban, South Africa, and Spring (Two) Matter, Amsterdam, Holland.

Meeting Ensemble Batida

Just across the Arve River in Geneva, at the southern edge of the city, Ensemble Batida are finding their feet in the Theatre Galpon, the chosen location for the weekend's music-dance collaboration. Here's what I saw as I went to meet them yesterday. This creative collaboration has come a long way from it's origins in Durban, South Africa.

Batida performing in South Africa.

Batida Theatre Ensemble at the Galpon, 
discussing the project with me this week.

I had already had a chance to meet Batida's percussionist, Alexandra Bellon, for an introduction to Portrait Jens van Daele. She said the performances next weekend would be above all an exchange, a mélange of Swiss and French musicians, dancers from the Arnhem Dance Academy, a letter from South Africa inspiring the framework of Belgian choreographer, Jens. Alexandra described the whole ensemble as artists coming together to work with universal messages of love and hate, with choreography very much in the style of Pina Bausch.

She led the discussion at the press conference, introducing the themes of limitation, and how the music of Ensemble Batida endeavoured to respect the individual forms of love and hate, with separate rhythms assigned to both. Whereas the dancers were bound by restrictions of the form, the opposing nature of love and hate, the musicians could be open, she said, and gave the performances fluidity.

Batida's percussionist, Anne Briset originally made the connection with Jens van Daele when she was in South Africa performing with Durban's Philharmonic Orchestra. She wanted to arrange Ivor Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps for two pianos and percussion, Batida's musical dynamic. When Jens heard about Anne's arrangement of Stravinsky's work, he wanted to set dance to the music. What emerged was a creative collaboration between Ensemble Batida and Jens van Daela, evolving as each years passes. In the autumn of 2013, the collaboration performed Spring (Two) Matter in Amsterdam and theaters across the Netherlands, putting on 27 performances to critical acclaim. The evolution of Spring (Two) Matter, Spring Tide will be one of the dances performed next weekend. For more information on performances and tickets, please follow this link to Galpon's website.

The Swiss-French ensemble continue to develop their international presence by performing at St. Petersbourg's Festival ReMuskik in Russia, 2015.

I will be interviewing Jens van Daele next week and reviewing one of the dance pieces, Battre le Fer/Battre le Noir, next Thursday, 27th February. Two years ago, on February 27th, 2012, Hans Smit wrote this review of Battre le Fer performed at the Theatre Bellevue, Amsterdam:

And the beginning is still so peaceful: sisterly, they are preparing at the right side of an empty stage that is framed by glasses of water, beautifully illuminated. But as the composer, Richard van Krusydijk, gets loose with his hard hitting drums, guitar and keys, the dancers cannot fall behind. Jens van Daele doesn't spare his dancers; their movements require strength and concentration. The battle that the two women engage in is physical, full ... seemingly uncontrolled rolling, dragging, dropping and stomping - the dancers wear the characteristic heels of Van Daele ...  the simple lighting produces beautiful silhouettes on the wall of the two women sliding over each other, as if a peace is signed.  

If you're in Geneva, I hope you can catch a performance. If you're elsewhere in the world, look out for Jens van Daele and Ensemble Batida. They might be coming your way soon.

Any inquiries can be directed to Ensemble Batida at
or you can visit their website at

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Thank you for this highlight Helen! Will do my best to be there!