Coffeeklatch

creative chit-chat

Filip Van Huffel

Choreographer

We meet at deSingel, where dancer and choreographer Filip Van Huffel is rehearsing for his dance performance ‘Layers of Skin '. Despite a full agenda and deadlines, he looks very relaxed. "I’m living my dream! I have my hobby as my profession and all I really do is dancing and travelling around the world. It's so much fun. And if possible, I take my kids along!" Filip is a family man and enjoys a pleasant crowd. We meet kids and his dancers at his home on a Sunday morning, at the breakfast table. We have to be fast, because his son Kobi wolfs down all the croissants.

 

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Obviously you love to dance, but what about your kids, Kobi (2,5 yrs) and Mika (6 yrs)? 

They move very naturally and it's beautiful. If you send children to a dance school, they get conditioned in a certain way. Dancing is great when motions are not somehow forced from the waist. It’s not important whether my kids turn into dancers, it’s important they know how to move. My youngest son is a dancer, especially when we turn on Michael Jacksons music. (laughs) I want my children to do whatever makes them happy. My parents have always supported me and to this day they have seen all of my dance performances in Belgium.

 

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As a child, did you want to become a dancer? 

No, I started dancing when I was 18 and that’s considered quite late. I have always been physically active: doing cycling, gymnastics and jujitsu, but something was missing in my life. I didn’t belong behind a desk. I really didn’t know what my passion was, until I discovered dance. And from then on, it went very quickly and quite naturally. I was too old for the ballet school and the Mudra Béjart dance school in Brussels was burnt down, so I opted for a nomadic lifestyle in stead. I grabbed my backpack and moved from one workshop to another. I went from England to Germany to the Netherlands and so I quickly found my way towards the dance scene. In Belgium there are excellent dance schools such as Parts and Artesis. And as a student you can dance all day long and build a good technical background, without taking into account other obligations. I danced, but I also gave dance workshops to meet financial ends.

 

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You give workshops to 50+, amateurs, youngsters, people from the financial world and people with disabilities. How do you work with each group?

I have very few limits and I try to be as open as possible by working on accepting people the way they are. While I’m dancing and I’m engaged with movement and the body, I'm happy. And it’s very important for participants to have an open mind about dancing, cause this way I reach towards improvisation tools and techniques to ensure that they learn to move in a different way. For some, the introduction to dance is a revelation. I know one 65 year old who fully tackled his dancing itch, and follows workshops all over Europe. Isn’t that fantastic? And there are also young people that have exchanged their studies for a dance career.

 

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Belgium has a rich tradition of dance with pioneers like Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Alain Platel, ... Undoubtedly big names that opened the doors for contemporary dance in Flanders and the rest of the world.

Thanks to these pioneers, culture and dance in Flanders became firmly established. And when I give workshops adults are much more receptive, they are open for dance and movement and they have no shame anymore. The situation is very different in England, where abstract dance is more popular. They find improvising quite peculiar, and they will rather question it.

 

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Is there currently a striking trend in contemporary dance?

What was once ‘out’ is moving back 'in'. There was a time when movement in certain circuits was considered wrong. I always start from my own body and my style has evolved over the years, it has profoundly changed. Previously I was experimenting more and each time I was trying something new. Now I finally know what I'm doing. (laughs)

 

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Where do you get your inspiration from?

From anywhere, especially when I don’t think. When I relax at home, on the train and on the bike,...I always have a basic starting point and then I look for elements that fit with it. If I want to move, I start to dance. I can suddenly get inspired.

 

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And does music play an important role when you dance?

Yes, music is very important. But when I create a dance piece, I often do so without music. I don’t like it when dancers move synchronously to the music. I don’t find it so interesting, because the relationship between music and dance is then too direct. It must seem more distant and natural. In a nightclub you can dance to the beat, but that’s not really creative.

 

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When dancing to the beat is not so important, how do you determine whether someone can dance or not?

It’s easy to see if someone can or cannot move. This year we’ve organized dance auditions in Belgium and England and there were 1000 people who didn’t fit the profile. We are always looking for a combination of different qualities: whether they are technically literate, what they communicate during dancing, and if we find them likeable or not. After all, dancing together in a community for a long time can be very intense, so it must click in many ways.

 

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Working, dancing, family, everything seems interconnected in your life.

My wife (Natalie Gordon) analyzes the movement in my dance pieces. In the past she did the management of my dance collective Retina Dance Company. Our relationship is a partnership, we do everything together. And at home, we dance all together: me, my wife and our two kids. And we do that every day! When we do the dishes, we’ll start improvising in the kitchen. So we're a close family and the same goes for our dancers who stay at our place during the rehearsal period. It’s always a pleasant and busy affair at home.

 

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Dancing makes you a happy man.

I’m living my dream! My hobby is my profession and all I do is dancing. I’m happy working with top dancers. I must say that happiness is relative, because I only have funding for 3 years. And what comes next is always uncertain. But it keeps it exciting. I’m never worried about the future.

 

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 Retina Dance Company

www.retinadance.com

 

 

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About Coffeeklatch

Coffeeklatch stands for ‘Slow journalism using a fast medium.’ Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen created the blog as a creative chitchat featuring creative entrepreneurs in their homes over coffee, including interesting people telling intriguing stories. It celebrates storytelling and creativity in all its forms, from fashion design to architecture. Read More

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