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Much beloved by contemporary dance lovers, the Belgian company Ultima Vez, founded and directed Wim Vandekeybus has, since 1987, produced bare-knuckle, highly physical and disconcerting shows that flirt cheerfully with danger. For its tenth season, Danse Danse is delighted to welcome back a company whose shows are always bursting with a fortifying dose of energy and originality. Ultima Vez will be in Montreal to present Spiegel (Mirror), an overview of the last two decades that, as a bonus, features a rare performance by Vandekeybus himself. Given that this will be Ultima Vez’s seventh visit to Montreal — the third as part of Danse Danse —, Spiegel is sure to bring back memories.

“Twenty years of creativity in a masterful work brimming with power and vitality.” (Le Soir, Belgium)


Twenty years after creating What the Body Does Not Remember, the very first show presented by Ultima Vez, Wim Vandekeybus has put together an evening that reprises some standout scenes from his body of work. Wim Vandekeybus looks in the mirror; with nine dancers, he explores his earliest shows and more recent creations one by one as sources of a new approach to movement. Juggling the original and revised versions of key scenes from the company’s repertoire, Spiegel is a retrospective of the energy, movement and emotion that underlie the work of Ultima Vez. “I emphasized the language that we have invented over the years,” Vandekeybus explained to Belgian weekly Le MAD, “the body language only. There is no text, unlike in previous shows.” As expected, the show displays the company’s trademarks – conflict, risk, energy, instinct, imaginary disasters, attraction/ repulsion – along with music by regular collaborators Arno and Ad Cominotto, David Byrne, Thierry de Mey, Pierre Mertens, Marc Ribot and Peter Vermeersch. Spiegel is based on excerpts from What the Body Does Not Remember (1987) — Ultima Vez’s first work —, Immer Das selbe gelogen (1991), Bereft of a Blissful Union (1996), 7 for a Secret Never to Be Told (1997), In Spite of Wishing and Wanting (1999) and Inasmuch as Life Is Borrowed (2000).

“All nostalgia aside, the work holds up and the choreographic vocabulary grabs us by the throat.” (De Standaard, Belgium)

A coproduction of Ultima Vez, KVS (Royal Flemish Theatre, Brussels), PACT Zollverein/Choreographisches Zentrum NRW (Essen) and the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Spiegel premiered in September 2006 at the KVS in Brussels. The piece went on to tour Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In spring 2007, Spiegel will be performed in Germany, Austria and Spain.

“An absolute must-see for anyone who’s forgotten that Wim Vandekeybus is dance in its pure state, violent, athletic and exhausting, expressed through bodies locked combat or a sensual embrace.” (La Libre 2, Belgium)

Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez
The director, choreographer, actor and photographer Wim Vandekeybus founded his company, Ultima Vez, (“the last time” in Spanish) during a prolonged stint in Madrid in 1986. In June 1987, What the Body Does Not Remember premiered at the Toneelschuur in Haarlem, the Netherlands. With raw force and energy, the dancers leapt, threw themselves into the air and caught each other. Bricks were thrown, threatening to fall on the dancers. Every movement required highly precise timing, and the dancers needed an unshakeable confidence in their instincts. The new company had set the tone.

After some initial scepticism, What the Body Does Not Remember quickly came to international attention. The following year in New York, Wim Vandekeybus received the Bessie Award for “[…] a brutal confrontation of dance and music: the dangerous, combative landscape of What the Body Does Not Remember.” The piece is choreographed to the music of Thierry de Mey and Peter Vermeersch, who to this day still work regularly with Vandekeybus. Music, often played live, is one of the essential elements of an Ultima Vez performance.


Since What the Body Does Not Remember, Wim Vandekeybus has created almost twenty shows featuring revolving international casts and almost as many films and videos. Among his works are Les Porteuses de mauvaises nouvelles (1989), presented at the Festival international de nouvelle danse in Montréal (FIND); Immer das Selbe gelogen (1991), also presented at FIND; Her Body Doesn’t Fit Her Soul (1993), his first collaboration with blind dancer/actors; Mountains Made of Barking, based on a film shot by Vandekeybus in Morocco and presented in Montreal during the Danses en saison series; Bereft of a Blissful Union (1996); 7 for a Secret Never to Be Told (1997); In Spite of Wishing and Wanting (1999), performed at Danse Danse in 2000; and Inasmuch as Life Is Borrowed (2000).

The piece Blush in 2002 (presented at Danse Danse in 2004) began a new collaboration between Ultima Vez, the KVS (Royal Flemish Theatre) and Flemish writer Peter Verhelst. Verhelst also wrote the text for Sonic Boom (2003), a coproduction of Ultima Vez and the Toneelgroep Amsterdam. Vandekeybus brings together on stage three gifted actors from the Dutch repertory company and eight dancers from his own company. Sonic Boom was selected for the Dutch-Flemish Theatre Festival 2003.

Also in 2002, a workshop for young people during the Brussels literature festival Het Groot Beschrijf was the starting point for a series of projects for young audiences directed by Wim Vandekeybus. Bericht aan de Bevolking/Avis à la Population (2002) was followed by Viva! (2004), Rent a Kid, no Bullshit (2005) and Bêt noir (2006), based on a 1999 adaptation of the Oedipus myth by Flemish playwright Jan Decorte.

The most recent production by Ultima Vez, entitled PUUR and featuring 13 dancer/actors, including Flemish actor Tone Brulin, premiered at the Singapore Arts Festival in May 2005 and was on the lineup for the Avignon Festival the same year.

Wim Vandekeybus also created the solo it for Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, the dancer and choreographer who created the arresting show Foi for Les Ballets C. de la B. that was presented at Danse Danse in 2003. Vandekeybus has also been invited to choreograph for the Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid, directed by Nacho Duato. The premiere of Quiebro took place in Madrid in November 2006.

Duration: 75 minutes, no intermission


Direction, Choreography, Scenography: Wim Vandekeybus
Performers: Laura Arís, Elena Fokina, Robert M. Hayden, Germán Jauregui Allue, Jorge Jauregui Allue, Thi-Mai Nguyen, Ulrike Reinbott, Manuel Ronda, Helder Seabra
Assistant to the Director: Greet Van Poeck
Mouvement Assistants: Iñaki Azpillaga, Rasmus Ölme
Styling: Isabelle Lhoas, assisted by Frédéric Denis
Light design: Wim Vandekeybus
Sound design and Direction: Benjamin Dandoy
Assistant Scenography, Stage Manager: Daniel Huard
Production: Ultima Vez
Co-production: KVS (Brussels)
PACT Zollverein/Choreographisches Zentrum NRW (Essen)
Théâtre de la Ville (Paris).

Photo 1 Wim Vandekeybus, photos 2 & 3 Jean-Pierre Stoop