The Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2013—Part I

Reporter: Jackie Fletcher

Dateline: 6th May, 2013

In Brussels, the performing arts are burgeoning into life

I had just about given up on spring this year, assuming it had abandoned us, packed its wheelie-case and fled to more accommodating climes on a no-frills airline, there to cavort creatively in warmth and sunshine.

Brussels has been swept by wind and rain and even snow for far too long, and people have been huddling together in corner cafés, cosy restaurants and friendly theatres, as they are wont to do in winter in this convivial, cosmopolitan city. While still shivering in my woollies, in the clammy grip of an extended winter, I was consoling myself with the anticipation of my favourite festival: the Kunstenfestivaldesarts (a conjunction of words in Dutch and French simply meaning Festival of Arts), which lights up my life, not to mention my neurons, every spring.

Happily, both have arrived at once, as if spring were only waiting for the festival to don its glad-rags and make an entrance with considerable aplomb. Whoever said that Nature and Culture are binary opposites? Well, Shakespeare was one of them, but anyway these days Nature and Culture are happily in cahoots.

The Kunstenfestivaldesarts is an international, multidisciplinary, multilingual festival in the most multicultural and trilingual city in Europe—English is actually one of the three official languages spoken here. But Brussels and the Kunstenfestivaldesarts operate on a human scale: everything is accessible and approachable. In spite of the hordes of bureaucrats, diplomats and lobbyists scurrying to rub shoulders in the EU district, Brussels is one of those places where people can still spell the word S-L-O-W: time to live and enjoy, time for people and connections, time to observe, think and to grow and time also to be a gourmet of culture rather than a greedy gobbler.   

For nearly two decades now, KFDA has been quietly and modestly presenting some of the very best new work from well-established names, as well as supporting younger artists from across the globe, giving them an international platform for their work and the opportunities to evolve artistically through creative encounters. This year’s festival, which takes place from 3rd to 25th May, will offer 33 productions (theatre, dance, performance and live art, installations, films, debates and workshops) from around 16 different countries in about 20-odd performance spaces and sundry venues.

Many of the performances, films, talks and installations are in English, everything is translated in surtitres into a least two languages, and there are also some exhilarating dance shows programmed so those who don’t speak French or Dutch (or English for that matter) can engage in a corporeal language. You don’t need to be a polyglot to enjoy the Kunstenfestivaldesarts. And I can promise you, speaking as someone who is definitely hooked, that once you’ve been to Brussels for the KFDA, you will keep coming back.

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