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Hands Do Not Touch Your Precious Me: Win tickets to choreographer Wim Vandekeybus's acclaimed show

10:34 05/07/2021

Acclaimed Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus, recently awarded the 2020 UK National Dance Award for best digital performance, is bringing his latest performance to KVS in Brussels for seven shows.

Hands Do Not Touch Your Precious Me is a sometimes poetic, sometimes mysterious, sometimes gruesome, sometimes fragile but always fascinating descent into the underworld. Vandekeybus took a break from rehearsals to answer our questions.

Your latest piece is called Hands Do Not Touch Your Precious Me. First of all, what does that mean?

Olivier de Sagazan, a visual artist whose solo work involves transforming himself with clay, came to me to say: I’ve worked years alone, but now I’d like to do something with a bigger company, I admire your company, can’t we do something together?

Then Charo Calvo, a Spanish composer whom I have worked with a lot, came up with the story of Inanna. Inanna was a goddess in Mesopotamia 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. Ereshkigal is the sister of Inanna but she has descended into the underworld. Enheduanna was a high priestess who wrote about her, and somehow incarnated her. She wrote poems on clay, and this clay was preserved, and in one of the poems there’s the phrase Hands do not touch your precious Me.

And what’s interesting is the Me – we think that Me is us, is I, but in fact here it’s not. Me is a kind of cultural capacity and each tablet was a Me, for instance the art of writing, or the sexuality, or the warrior. It’s a human capacity which in fact is the cultural values. Enki, the top god at that time, had all these Me’s. He had a hundred Me’s who were incarnated. Inana steals that piece of Enki and then she gives this Me to the people, in fact sharing the culture with the people. And it’s very interesting to have an old story that is not complete. I like incomplete stories because you can fill them in with your own contemporary spirit.

What can people expect when they come to this performance?

It’s an unspoken story. Charo Calvo makes electro-acoustic music which is very strong, which comes from deep in the veins. We see figures where it’s very clear who is whom, and little by little the whole scene transforms to a dark underworld where things happen. The two sisters separate and Inanna has to sacrifice herself to reunite with her sister in the underworld. They melt together and then it becomes the ritual of sacrifice.

The dancers start out quite clean, quite fresh, in fact, quite in the normal world, and Olivier goes into a mountain of clay and little by little the mountain takes over the whole stage and the dancers transform visually.

Your company, Ultima Vez, has existed for close to 35 years. How do you feel about that?

It’s amazing – I can’t believe that it’s three-and-a-half decades. Yesterday we were with the dancers and I think almost 10 of them were not born yet when the company was founded.

They said we have to do a huge celebration with the revival of many things. For me it always goes on and I feel sometimes like a beginner, because each time you have to find something to say and not to repeat what you did. I am a bit of a destroyer to create, like if you destroy or you refuse, in fact this is creation.

We keep on moving, changing, looking for new things, more difficult things, different things. Next year we’re going to produce lots of young artists with the visual end result that we will tour. In this building lots of residencies happened, lots of participation works happen with the neighbourhood.

There will be a project that will last over seven years which will happen in India, Africa and Europe. So it becomes a whole network in fact, not an institution and on this I’m happy that it’s very flexible towards the artist – it’s an artist-minded organisation that creates a kind of house where things can happen.

Photos: Danny Willems. Sorry! Our prize giveaway has now closed and the winners have been informed.

Written by Richard Harris