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Posted on October 23, 2018 in Curator's Notes
Ann Van den Broek: The Black Piece

The award-winning Dutch-Flemish choreographer Ann Van den Broek opens our Global Dance Connections series November 6-8 with her audacious meditation on the colour black, The Black Piece. Our Digital Marketing Coordinator Lindsay Curtis asked Executive Director Mirna Zagar to tell us more about this thrilling work and bringing it to Vancouver.

Lindsay Curtis: When did you first meet Ann van den Broek? What is she like?

Mirna Zagar: I first met Ann Van den Broek about ten years ago, when she was working on transposing her award-winning performance Co(te)lette to film. We reconnected around another international project, Choreoroam, where she was mentor for a group of emergent dance makers from the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Croatia. I have followed her work as much as I could over the years, and watched her capture both critical and audience attention. While her work is very physical and filled with a range of emotions, and at times come across as a forceful confrontation of what happens around us, as a person she is very reflective, analytical of issues, considerate, warm, and caring. 

LC: How would you describe her work? What makes it unique?

MZ: You can see Ann’s analytical mind at work in the careful construction of the choreography which arises from diligent investigation into the theme she is concerned with. She shows that she understands the body, the human psyche, and the concept of space. Her work is unique in how it resonates with the public, and in how the emotional and physical are balanced, the decisiveness of each phrase which drives the audience to engage within our own subconsciousness, our desires. All of this creeps slowly into us, and lingers on as questions we carry for a long time after the performance is over. Strong images continue to fuel our own imagination. She masterfully juxtaposes high and low energy levels and shows us how impactful sound (or music) can be in choreography. She succeeds very well in how she touches the viewer. It’s a filmatic approach, as much as a stage one; it is expressive, but also formal. Her dancers are exceptional performers, but they grasp our imagination as people, and we, the audience, identify with them. Most choreographers aim to achieve a visceral and emotional connection with audiences, not all manage to do so with such continuous success, and so convincingly. As a two-time recipient of the prestigious Dutch Zwaan Award, it is clear that her work is highly regarded among the professional world as much as by the public.

LC: Tell us about The Black Piece – what kind of show is it? What kind of experience do people have with it?

MZ: The Black Piece received the Zwaan Award as the most impressive show of 2015. It was also selected by the producers of the Dutch Dance Festival as one of the most important productions. The theme itself is intriguing. Black as a colour often stands for something representing fear or sorrow, but this is a quest for the other black. One that attracts, demands attention. The work is woven like a dream filled with meanings hard to explain with a singular statement and is left for interpretation. Five dancers along with a camera operator slowly draw us into their world, initially starting out in the dark so we start the discovery by applying our auditory senses. As the work evolves and we delve deeper into the emotional states of the dancers, we encounter a play of perception and how it can deceive; it plays on the human desire and curiosity to see, to know everything, but is what we see always the real thing? The work is rich with images, movement, sound, lighting, all coming together to create this world full of fantasy. Our senses are heightened, and our expectations often subverted in unexpected ways.


LC: Can you describe the use of the camera operator and video in the performance?

MZ: Black as a colour exists through the grace of light. Ann is on the stage with a flashlight so is the source of that light, almost as if offering the beginning of life even. The camera operator generates haunting real-time video which is projected onto and above the dancers.  These elements contribute to the sense of a surreal world and the dreamlike experience being created by the sound and the movements of the dancers.

LC: Why did you decide to bring this work to Vancouver?

MZ: Apart from my desire to offer our audiences unique, trail-blazing experiences that are resonating on world stages, it was a fortuitous moment in time as Ann is touring North America. I believe this will be one of the shows that audiences will remember, and a work that will inspire local artists and those working in dance and interested in the application of different media. I also hope it will be an interesting artistic encounter outside of the stage as Ann engages in dialogue with our own local dance community.


The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connections series:

WArd/waRD-Ann Van den Broek: The Black Piece
November 6-8, 2018, 8pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677 Davie Street, Vancouver


Photo by Maarten Vanden Abeele


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