A few seconds
Easter holiday is not in the dictionary of Piet Van Dycke (27). This week he rehearses in Destelheide in Dworp with his 'glorious bodies' (also the title of his new performance), a group of circus artists between 53 and 67 years old who still do handstands as if they were young chickens. It is also busy because of the many circus festivals that will soon herald spring. With the humorous balance duet On point, Van Dycke heads to Hopla! in Brussels, and during the MAD festival in Antwerp, Exit plays at Park Spoor Noord as the backdrop.
Especially with that last performance, Van Dycke, who was previously called 'the best acrobatic dancer of his generation' in this newspaper, proved that he is here to stay. At first glance, the installation of Exit – a gray two-storey apartment building – seems rather colorless. Until the doors start to float and one of the walls turns into a life-size balance board from which the four circus artists – specialized in dance acrobatics, bascule and aerial straps – let themselves slide down like monkeys. “When we play school performances, that is invariably the moment when all young people pull out their smartphones,” laughs Van Dycke. “Afterwards they copy the choreography on the playground and send us videos.”
In Exit, the acrobats have to keep each other in balance all the time, which is almost a matter of life or death (or at least injury or no injury). If someone balances their weight a bit too overconfident, the rotating wall will shoot through and the whole group will fall to the ground. ‘I have now seen the piece about eighty times, but the tension is still there,’ says Van Dycke. "So much can go wrong, sometimes it depends on a few seconds. Or a dancer gets so much energy from the audience that he shifts up a gear, but then the rest is endangered.' It is precisely because of this togetherness that circus is the ultimate medium for Van Dycke. "It's about connection, you depend on each other. In solo disciplines, such as Chinese mast or trapeze, the relationship to the object is central. But I prefer to play with the relationship between people. Before each performance I do an extensive preliminary investigation. For me, the work only makes sense if there is a personal connection and the group also enjoy their time together outside rehearsals. The performers call me the bossman, but also daddy Piet, because I want everyone to feel good about themselves.' (laughs)
Just like Alexander Vantournhout, Van Dycke has one foot in the circus world and the other in the dance. Between his six and eighteen years old he learned circus in Atelier Salto in Tienen. Van Dycke started with tightrope walking, got a taste for trapeze and ended up with partner acrobatics. “I didn't like the first lesson, but my parents made me try it three times. Later the spark was there, because in circus, unlike competition sports such as football or basketball, you can move freely. Working hard and having fun goes hand in hand. That is still my motto. Van Dycke also discovered his passion for dance through fabuleus, the production house for youngsters in Leuven. ‘At the circus school we mainly learned tricks, but I always found the way to go into the trick more interesting. I learned from choreographer Karolien Verlinden that dance can also be something else than the narrative of show dance. She worked with everyday actions. Also in Exit, my main source of inspiration is my street in Leuven, where I live with my boyfriend. Every day my neighbors and I leave the house together and we come home at night, but we remain strangers. Don't we share more with each other than we think?' After his dance training at the Fontys Hogeschool in Tilburg, Van Dycke made the opposite move: he founded the company "Circumstances", where he mainly works with circus performers. “They are used to challenge themselves. Dancers rarely get me on the edge of my seat as an audience.'
Just as he interweaves different genres – from acrobatics to dance, circus and slapstick – Van Dycke is at home in many contexts and audiences, including the Netherlands, where he won the BNG Bank Dance Prize in 2021. 'My company is called Circumstances because we always look for different circumstances: one time we play in a classical theatre, the other time in a sheep shed in the countryside or on location in the city. We use different circus techniques, make performances with young and older performers... That way it remains interesting for me and I have to reinvent myself as a maker. Three performances will premiere next season: Glorious bodies with circus artists over 50, Beyond the edge with youngsters at fabuleus and Foon, a project with his collective dOFt (read: dance or theatre) that he co-founded. "I'm a yes man, so sometimes there's little breathing room left," Van Dycke admits. 'My agenda is full until 2026. That stability is nice, but also frightening. Exit is also about that ratrace of life. Yet I keep my feet on the ground, because I know how fragile art is. You never know how something will be perceived. But as long as everyone of my team is happy and gets recognition for their hard work, I'm happy.”
EXIT has been selected for the TheaterFestival 2023. For the jury, EXIT was the most thrilling circus performance seen in Flanders last season. It's not hard to understand why it also became a true hit among the general public: as the pace and music intensify, you find yourself on the edge of your seat. Wonder reigns, but it is never without purpose. This work genuinely piques our curiosity about what Van Dycke, as an 'up and coming' circus maker, has in store.
On a sunny afternoon, acrobat-teacher Aurelia Brailowsky, dancer-acrobat Det Rijven, choreographer Janni van Goor, and juggler Sander De Cuyper gather in the courtyard of Limerick to discuss a sensitive topic: aging.
Read the full article by Mahlu Mertens in Circus Magazine #75 (June 2023).
At the Krokusfestival in Hasselt, a children's jury voted for their favorite theater performance. EXIT is the winner of this edition.
The Oerol festival has not lost its appeal after two canceled editions. Also this year, the Dutch Wadden Island shows itself from its best side, with location theater in dunes, woods and barns (and sheep next to the stage). We premiered EXIT on the 10th of June at this beautiful festival with the location version.
Circus dance, music theatre architecture and worldly mime. Piet, Timo and Elias. Those are the names of the 3 new, completely original makers that will enthusiastically start this spring with a three-year PLAN trajectory.
ON/OFF premiered at Festival Boulevard and was performed at Festival Spoffin and Festival Circolo.
For the 23rd edition of DansClick, Piet Van Dycke was interviewed by Hasan Gök. The portrait video was shot by Conni Trommlitz and was shown on big screen after the performance during the DansClick tour.
“Danshuis” is a series about dance in which every episode a dance house is presented. During the various lockdowns, these kind of dance houses were the only places where dancers and makers could still work together. Hadassah De Boer meets the makers who continue to create new work despite the lockdowns. In episode 4, Club Soda takes centre stage.
Piet Van Dycke has won the BNG Bank Dance Prize 2021 and will be featured in the Netherlands next autumn during the DansClick23 tour. The prize for outstanding choreography talent was awarded on the 25th of June in Parkstad Limburg Theaters in Heerlen during the schrit_tmacher festival.