Investing in a
new dance generation
in Europe
Credits: Joshua
Culture Program of the European Comission

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
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WHERE IS YOUR HOUSE: Interview with Steven Del Belder, from PARTS (Belgium)

1. WHERE IS YOUR HOUSE? (give us a small description of PARTS mission  and its previsions for 2013)

PARTS is a school for contemporary dance based in Brussels. It was founded in 1995 by choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who is still its director. It’s a small and international school with maximum 60 students, usually coming from approx. 20 different countries. As an institution, it is independent from the regular education system, being and feeling much closer to the professional arts world where it also recruits its teachers.
2013 is a special year, for different reasons. In September 2013 PARTS will launch the new Training cycle which will be a 3-year basic professional program. At this very moment (January 2013) all the students are working abroad on exceptional projects in Senegal and New York. And finally, this Spring will see an important renovation of the PARTS building, making it warm in Winter and fresh in Summer!

2. WHO ARE YOU? (give us a small presentation of you and your work  within PARTS)

My job is split up in two parts. On the one hand i’m the coordinator of the Research cycle, being the final responsible fr the layout and realization of the program, which is different each year. I do this together with Salva Sanchis because I’m not a pedagogue or a choreographer myself. On the other hand I’m the coordinator of the Départs network, channeling information between the different partners and stakeholders, organizing meetings and coordinating the reporting towards the European Comission who is the main sponsor of Départs.

3. THE HOUSE Of GEOGRAPHY (How does the geographical location of PARTS  affects its work and goals?)

It’s very central and that makes every other place in Europe rather close. This is not only true for PARTS but for the Brussels performing arts scene in general, which PARTS feeds off, and feeds in its turn too. Belgium is a small and culturally divided country, which pushes the school to think internationally in order to reach for the highest quality, both in terms of students ad teachers.
Geographically, PARTS is located outside of the center of Brussels. This is good for concentration, but it also makes it a little island

4. THE HOUSE OF POLITICS (Parts is sometimes considered the most  important school in the field of contemporary dance. But“contemporary  dance“ is more and more a label that is not necessarily connected with  a “contemporary dance technique“ but with a mode of production and research in art. Do you think PARTS is a reference in these fields as well? Why?)

PARTS starts from contemporary dance as a physical, studio-based practice. This is not only linked to physical technique as such but also to a certain approach of research and production. We know and appreciate the expanded definition of choreography, and we also bring in inside of the program, mainly within the Research cycle. We are interested in this expansion, but also how it feeds back into the basic training, which we believe we have a good model for. We take in students who have a physical dance practice as their starting point, which they can stretch and bend as far as they want (and they do that). People with different profiles will probably choose different schools, and that’s fine!

5. THE HOUSE OF GOLD (Belgium has been outstandingly strong in the  European dance market. How do you think this firmness is produced and  what is the responsability of PARTS in this construction? And, from  the belgium perspective, how is the economical crisis affecting this reality?)

My personal belief is that this position is due to a lack of history. In the performing arts Belgium does not have a strong legacy or (sense of) tradition, neither a classical one or a modern one. This probably has complex sociological and political sources, but time is too short to go deeper into that... Because of this lack of history it was relatively easy to present a new approach as ’new’ and exciting, giving way for a sense that everything is possible. Equally important is that the new scene that Roses in the 80’s has managed to institutionalize itself instead of being institutionalized by the existing structures, and could therefore keep claiming the flag of artistic innovation.
In the end, all the dance companies, also those with roots in the firs wave of the 80’s, are still legally independent structures, relatively small and versatile, both artistically and economically! I believe that is very important.
I don’t know if PARTS has a responsability in this construction, the roots of which go back much earlier than the school. For sure the fact that the school can exist as a small and independent unit, recognized and supported by the government but not recuperated by it in the traditional structures of education, is continuous with the situation of the professional field.
So far, the crisis has had limited effects on the situation. There have been some cuts and savings operations, but not nearly as severe as in other countries. But the political climate is getting tenser and the combination of economical uncertainty and conservative/populist ideologies may prove to be dangerous for the arts field - there are elections in 2014.

6. THE HOUSE OF MEMORY (tell us a small story that you connect with  Belgium Dance history and changed you way of seeing dance. A small  detail and memory that triggered your affection and could us approach  belgium specificities through your lenses )

My entry into the dance field was quite peculiar. I had just started an MA in theatre studies and got offered a position as an intern (assistant to the artistic director) in a dance festival/workspace called De Beweeging (now called wpZimmer). I did not know ANYthing about contemporary dance but somehow I convinced the artistic director that I really wanted to learn about it, so he sent me out to see LOTS of performances which helped me gain insight into the field and get in touch with many artists. I’ve always approached things with a certain naiveté, never claimed any sort of expertise, and I think that this perspective is also defining to a large extent how the field works and was constructed (see also my comment on the lack of tradition above). Things have gotten more crowded and organized over the past 15 years so I’m not sure if I could repeat that trajectory today, but I do think that the sense of wonder and self-re-invention is still a strong feat of what’s going on in the field artistically.

7. THE HOUSE OF ART (Chose one or more PARTS young upcoming artist that  you love and present him or us to us)

Benjamin Vandewalle. I think he very much embodies the sense of wonder and ’dilletantism’ that is such a feat of the field. He’s playing a lot with perception issues, walking a fine line between a non-nonsense, almost naive approach of issues that others can be very careful and highbrow about (perception of movement, dance in public space...) and a strong conviction and process of development - he gets better and more precise with every new work he makes, doing his own thing that has potential to appeal far beyond the sometimes small circle of artist life and work in Brussels.