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Culture beat - January 2

14:48 02/01/2015
Beat the post-holiday blues with a feast of music plus a look ahead to the cultural highlights of 2015

Enjoy a musical interlude in the city’s cafés and bars, many of which host live bands at weekends. On Saturday La Tentation invites Bal Forro – Syndrome de Forro & DJ Mukambo for a workshop at 21.30 followed by a concert at 22.30. Or head to Café Bonnefooi to her Nasty in the Alley: Nasty Bartender vs Alley Cat for a retro 50s evening of rock ‘n’ roll, surf and swing.

Brussels is fast becoming a capital of jazz. A new event on the scene is River Jazz Festival staged in three venues, Théâtre Marni, Espace Senghor and Jazz Station, from January 9 to 24. The name of the event evokes the former Maelbeek stream that once linked Ixelles, Saint-Josse and Etterbeek, the three communes in which the venues are sited. Belgian talents are joined by international artists for a varied programme promising a diversity of jazz styles. Dani Klein & Sal La Rocca open the festival and the Manuel Hermia Trio close proceedings.

Another first is the appearance of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra Venezuela conducted by Gustavo Dudamel on January 11 and 12 at Bozar. The brilliant and emotional South American group of musicians are performing Beethoven’s Fifth and Mahler’s Fifth. The orchestra is the product of the country’s ground breaking music educational programme El Sistema.

Celebrate the New Year in Belle Epoque Vienna with the concert Ein Abend in Wien at Bozar on January 13. Prague’s Johann Strauss Musical Theatre performs a musical journey to the city’s glory days before the outbreak of the first world war when the country was a major Central European power. Singers and dancers join the orchestra for Viennese operettas, Italian bel canto, Bohemian polka, Polish mazurka, Hungarian csárdás and the waltz.

As Belgium’s new government is nicknamed the Swedish coalition in reference to the colours of its political parties, the annual francophone satirical political review, Sois belge et tais-toi adopts the Scandinavian country as its theme. From an Ikea road map, instruction manual for the new government and Abba-singing opposition, the comedy show attacks with gusto the challenge of parodying the uncharted political terrain. New characters include Kris Peeters, Jan Jambon, Jacqueline Galant, Siegfried Bracke and Benoît Lutgen, while Charles Michel has been transformed befitting his present role as prime minister. The introduction of two video screens on stage is a novel element, enabling the interaction of two characters incarnated by the same actor. The royal family return for topical cameos as do the teacher of Dutch. Joël Riguelle (in real life mayor of Berchem-Sainte-Agathe) provides another sketch on the joys of learning the learning. Written by Baudouin and André Remy, the show is currently touring the country.

More screen treats from January 8 to 11 in the Bozar Cinema Days as the film club celebrates its 10th anniversary. A festive four-day programme opens with Turist, a black comedy by Ruben Östlund. Previews include The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq in which Guillaume Nicloux stages the famous writer’s imaginary abduction with Houellebecq playing himself; Blind Dates by Georgian director Levan Koguashvili, The Kindergarten Teacher by Israeli director Nadav Lapid, Les Hommes by Stanislas Zambeaux, Ming of Harlem by Phillip Warnell and The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films by Hilla Medalia. The mini festival is also screening Bruno Dumont’s series P’tit Quinquin, a blend of Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis and Twin Peaks. Elusive Spanish director Adolpho Arrietta is a special guest and presents a selection of his works. The closing film is the Belgo-German documentary Gardenia. Before The Last Curtain Falls by Thomas Wallner, inspired by Alain Platel’s play.

Get a glimpse of the diversity of dress and design across the European Union in the exhibition Fashion Art EU at Brussels Parlamentarium until May 15. The multimedia visitor centre is hosting the show that was conceived by Madrid’s Fashion Art Institution. Each of the 28 member states is represented, presenting their own sartorial values, both contemporary and traditional. Entrance is free.

2015 cultural highlights

After a year in which Belgium was centre stage for the World War One commemorations, the country’s strategic role in European military history continues with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in June 2015. Two major re-enactments are planned and a new visitor centre is due to open at the foot of the famous Lion’s Mound. Continuing the military theme, the end of the second world war will be celebrated by all the Allied countries throughout the year and in particular the 70th anniversary of the Victory in Europe on May 8.

Among the year’s art exhibitions, there is a focus on portraits. Bozar hosts Faces Now (European Portrait Photography since 1990) and Faces Then (Renaissance Portraits from the Low Countries), from February 6 to May 1. Antwerp’s Rubenshuis hosts Rubens in private, a major show of the Flemish Baroque artist’s family portraits, from March 28 to June 28.

The biennial cultural festival Europalia returns in October with an event dedicated to another BRIC country, Turkey. Honouring the country’s East meets West culture, it includes exhibitions, concerts, dance, theatre, literature and cinema. Until January 2016.

And on the sporting front, while there’s no matching the World Cup football fever of 2014, Belgium’s Red Devils will be seeking to qualify for Euro 2016, which will be be hosted by France.

First up in the New Year is Mons 2015 as the Hainaut capital starts its year as European Capital of Culture on January 24. The year-long programme is a cultural feast with five new museums opening in and around the old mining capital, including Van Gogh’s former home and the Mons Memorial Museum which recalls the region’s extensive military history.