Do you enjoy contemporary dance? Then you really must come to Brussels. For if there is one city that attracts dancers and choreographers from all over the world, then it is our capital. Discover this playground for contemporary creation. There is something to enjoy at all times of the year, but the months of February and March are particularly appealing. This is when the Brussels, Dance! festival takes place, the annual celebration of contemporary dance.
Are you not sure where to start? These ten hotspots will put you on the right track!
Humanimal © Guillaume Escallier
This theatre - Le Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles to give it its full name - stems from 1945. Since then, it has assumed a permanent place in the cultural landscape of Brussels. Three wonderful halls with excellent acoustics have been welcoming art lovers for years on end. But curious newcomers, eager to take their first steps in the wonderful world of performance arts, also find their way here. The programming is extremely diverse: there is room for both intellectually demanding performances and for relaxing evenings out. There is, indeed, something for everyone and Le Théâtre National makes a genuine contribution to the cultural richness that is Brussels.
Bd Emile Jacqmain 111/115 Emile Jacqmainlaan, 1000 Brussels - www.theatrenational.be
The Kaaitheater is a firm favourite among lovers of contemporary dance. It is a fantastic, progressive spot in the Brussels Quay district. You will recognise it immediately: it has a stunning art-deco facade. Since the eighties it has been the beating heart for experimental performance arts. Its laboratory is a showcase for national and international avant-garde artists. They address themes such as ecology and feminism and do not shy away from tackling other thorny social issues. If you prefer smaller productions, you can go to the nearby Kaai Studios, located in a former gueuze brewery.
Square Sainctelette 20 Sainctelettesquare and Rue Notre Dame du Sommeil 81 Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Van Vaakstraat, 1000 Brussels - www.kaaitheater.be
Jezebel © Bas de Brouwer
KVS stands for ‘Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg’ [Royal Flemish Theatre]. Initially the programming concentrated largely on classic theatre repertoire, which reflected the neo-renaissance style of the stunning facade. In recent years, the KVS has emerged as a bustling contemporary art centre, in the true spirit of Brussels. The focus is on contemporary forms of expression, inclusion and connection. The KVC embraces the city in all its plurality and aims to provide an unadorned reflection of the inter-cultural society. In doing so, it does not fear any taboo.
Quai aux Pierres de Taille 7 Arduinkaai, 1000 Brussels - www.kvs.be
Moeder by Gabriela Carrizo & Peeping Tom
Les Brigittines is a leading contemporary art centre of the City of Brussels, and is housed in a 17th-century chapel and its contemporary doppelgänger. This lively and genial spot focuses on meetings around new forms of performance art. That Les Brigittines clearly has a preference for dance is something you notice throughout the year, thanks to numerous creations, residences and laboratories by performance artists. Les Brigittines did not steal its baseline Playhouse for Movement. The summer festival, Le Festival International that focuses on contemporary movement, is the constant anchor point. Here you stumble from one surprise to the next.
Place de la Chapelle 5 Kapelleplein, 1000 Brussels - www.brigittines.be
Totem Liri © Samantha Thepaut
Near the ‘Beurs’ [Stock Exchange] you will find the ‘Beursschouwburg’ [Stock Exchange Theatre]. The facade is clad with corrupted versions of the name, which is difficult to pronounce for those who do not speak Dutch. It is a fine example of tongue-in-cheek self-mockery. The Beursschouwburg is a multi-disciplinary city jewel which never fails to surprise and excite. Each season, the programming revolves around a theme, the leitmotif for all performances, films, concerts, debates and festivals. The fact that young creatives continue to find their way to this spot is evidence of a innovative, hip and contrary approach. If you are there, you should certainly climb the 107 steps to the roof terrace. The view is really worth the effort.
Rue Auguste Orts 20/28 Auguste Ortsstraat, 1000 Brussels - www.beursschouwburg.be
The Sadness van Ula Sickle
BOZAR (Palace for Fine Arts)
Anyone who says art and culture, says BOZAR. It is the ultimate Mecca for exhibitions, concerts, cinema, literature, architecture and performance arts. BOZAR is, as it were, a city in the city. All its attention is focused on innovation, cross-fertilisation and originality. BOZAR is housed in the Palace for Fine Arts, a beautiful building designed by Victor Horta, the Brussels ‘godfather’ of art nouveau and art deco.
Rue Ravenstein 23 Ravensteinstraat, 1000 Brussels - www.bozar.be
Le Théâtre 140, or simply Le 140, is an iconic theatre in the municipality of Schaerbeek. Its founder, Jo Dekmine, was honoured shortly after his death with a street named after him. You can certainly include Le 140 in Brussels’ heritage. High quality dance and theatre performances, stand-up comedy in French and concerts have been regulars since 1963. Impressive acts such as Pink Floyd, Serge Gainsbourg, Blondie and Queen have all performed here. But it has also entertained the crème de la crème of the dance world, with stars such as Pina Baush and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Today, Le 140 offers a stage to both established and up-and-coming talent. The aim is always to build bridges between disciplines and give the audience an unforgettable evening.
Avenue Eugène plasky 140 Eugene Plaskylaan, 1030 Brussels - www.le140.be
Les Halles de Schaerbeek
The ‘Halles de Schaerbeek’ stand in the shadow of the Byzantine-Romanesque Saint Mary’s Royal Church. Les Halles, as they are called colloquially. Since 1991, the former covered market, constructed with glass and steel, has served as European cultural centre: a perfect example of a successful transformation of an industrial complex into a cultural centre. Its current identity has largely been developed in recent decades: there has been a conscious decision to focus on circus, dance and performance. European projects that confront differences in culture, language and vision are always top of the bill!
Rue Royale-Sainte-Marie 22a Koninklijke Mariastraat, 1030 Brussels - www.halles.be
Hive © Daniue Putnas
Le Théâtre La Balsamine swears by its conviction that art must be accessible to as large an audience as possible. Their motto is Art for Art’s Sake. This house for creation invites everyone to ponder meaning and sensory experience in an ever-changing world. Artists are encouraged to question their style, values and the context in which they work. The aim is for them to rediscover themselves and their relationship to the world. Does this sound a little absurd? Don’t let it scare you off; go there and experience it all for yourself.
Avenue Félix Marchal 1 Félix Marchallaan, 1030 Brussels - www.balsamine.be
Charleroi danse – La Raffinerie
Old Molenbeek is sometimes called ‘Little Manchester’ because of its similarity to the English industrial stronghold of the 19th century. One of the relics from that period is Gräffe, the former sugar refinery, with its brick walls and wrought iron frame. In 1979, the building was redesignated for cultural use. In the eighties, various cult groups performed in the famed Plan K concert hall. After renovation works, the Brussels department of Charleroi danse, the choreography centre of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles moved in, resulting in numerous artist residences and dance performances. La Raffinerie is now a not-to-be-missed destination for dance enthusiasts.
Rue de Manchester 21 Manchesterstraat, 1080 Brussels - www.charleroi-danse.be