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What's on this week: 20-26 July
Started 15 years ago to celebrate Albert II's 10 years on the throne, the Bal National rapidly became a cherished institution. Taking place on the eve of the National Holiday on the iconic Place du Jeu de Balle in the heart of the Marolles, it is a corny, effusive, fun-loving, inclusive and uplifting event that encourages Brussels natives to express the quintessential Brussels humour known as Zwanze - and gives expats and visitors a unique view of the "real Brussels". Things kick off at 19.30 with Unik Party during which the Unik group teaches the crowd dance steps and then everyone on stage and off performs the choreography. Following that warm-up, various musical acts (Brusseleir, Flemish and Francophone) perform to everyone's delight (Johnny Halliday tribute, a 90s Flemish boyband, a joint concert by Plastic Bertrand – it’s the 40th anniversary of Ca Plane Pour Moi - and Lio, followed by a DJ set and finally rock and pop cover band The Planes. All the cafes and restaurants on the square participate and add outdoor grilling to their menus so food and beer choices abound. To celebrate five years of reign, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde will be attending this year.
20 July, Place du Jeu de Balle
For decades if not longer, National Day celebrations consisted of a sober Te Deum at the cathedral, the military parade, the royal family on display, and the fireworks. Other than that, people made their own additional fun in their local café. But thirty years or so ago, King Baudouin decided that the day should be more of a big party and he asked the Syndicat d’Initiative to come up with something. What they came up with has grown over the years and now involves a plethora of events, concerts, police dog demonstrations, wall climbing, historical reenactments, information stands, games, museums, government and religious buildings open to the public, and of course, a frites stand every few metres. It all takes place from the Royal Park to the law courts. The latest addition to the festivities is 40 folkloric giants from all over Belgium and even one from Northern France who parade up and down the avenue. New since last year is the Brol National, a special edition of the flea market which starts at 8.00. Another recent addition is the Resto National, an open air banquet on the Place du Jeu de Balle where hundreds of people eat excellent mussels and frites at long communal tables while participating in singalongs before making the trek up to the royal palace to watch the fireworks.
Starting this weekend, the Royal Palace is open to the public. The throne room has no throne but it does have sculptures by August Rodin and enormous splendid chandeliers. There are plenty of beautifully appointed rooms but what is unexpected is the exhibitions organised by the 10 federal scientific institutions, and in the Hall of Mirrors the ceiling of which is covered in one and a half million scintillating turquoise scarabs, an installation by Jan Fabre, dozens of fun interactive displays and games for children illustrating certain scientific principles.
22 July to 2 September, Place des Palais
With more than 22,000 events taking place every year in Brussels we do expect them in all sorts of places - but in a night shop? Yes. In Chez Madeleine, a nightshop on the Place du Jardin des Fleurs (just west of Saint-Géry), CHPT.01 Art Collective is putting on shows, art installations, theatre and whatever comes up creatively. Their mission statement: the night shop is our gallery, museum, school, platform and cultural centre.
Friday and Saturday, at the Atomium and the Botanic Gardens in Meise it’s African Fashion and Culture Week. African fashion professionals will be working off the theme Flora in Vogue with the garden’s spectacular plants as background and inspiration.
As part of the city’s plans to reinvigorate the Rue des Bouchers neighbourhood, storefronts on the Petite Rue des Bouchers have been provided to new interesting businesses for low rents on a temporary basis. Called Pimp My Street the programme is in its second incarnation with a whole new set of stores. But there is one permanent new business and that is the Bar Benelux, a friendly inviting place with a contemporary look. If you haven’t had a the opportunity to check it out, this Friday would be a great time since they are hosting this summer’s Dansez-vous Français which for this rather Belgian edition (it is the eve of National Day) has been retitled Dansez-vous Fabiola - "ffor all dancing queens, kings, queers and others". DJ Oscar Désir will be spinning the hits.
20 July from 23.00
All through the summer the beautifully restored Vaux-Hall in the Royal Park has free weekend events. On Fridays there’s sound trips through Europe at 18.00, a live concert at 19.00 and a DJ set at 20.00 plus a light installation by Magic Street. On Saturdays, there’s a complete tea at 15.00, classical music concert at 16.00, creative workshops for kids at 16.45, and short films screenings courtesy of the BSFF at 22.00. And on Sundays there’s brunch at 11.30 and all sorts of games courtesy of the Brussels Games Festival at 14.30
During a party scene in Pierrot le Fou, Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character asks Sam Fuller (playing himself): “What is cinema?” He answers: “Film is like a battleground: love, hate, action, death… In one word, emotion.” Jean-Luc Godard approved of Fuller’s raw cinematic style, his sharp dialogue, probing close-ups and inventiveness within the limitations of genre cinema. You can catch Pierrot le Fou, Godard’s 10th film (he did 10 films in his first five years), on the big screen and in gorgeous colour at Cinematek this Saturday.
21 July, 21.00
Want to learn how to Kizomba? New this year at Brussels Beach, the originally Angolan music and dance will be featured every Thursday. Be you novice or advanced, alone, with family, with friends, curious or well versed, everyone is welcome.
Coucou Brussels is an opportunity to relax in deckchairs and enjoy a cool drink at seven open-air pop-up bars dotted around the city. An on-site tourist info stand is housed in recycled army shipping containers, and there are regular musical gigs and activities for kids. Key Brussels locations this year are Place Poelaert, the Atomium, Flagey, Cinquantenaire, Sainte-Gudule cathedral, Central Station and the Mont des Arts. The pop-up bar at the Atomium will organise special dance, music and circus arts events on the 21 July and 15 August public holidays.
Until 17 September, across Brussels