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Flash Flashback, 1-11: Shock Treatment Vandekeybus in Alaska with all the angry young men and women


Ultima Vez in Wim Vandekeybus’s “nieuwZwart.” Photo © & courtesy Pieter-Jan De Pue.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2009, 2017 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS — At a certain point in Wim Vandekeybus’s “NieuwZwart,” seen in its French premiere Tuesday on Vandekeybus’s company Ultima Vez at the Theatre de la Ville – Sarah Bernhardt, I asked myself, to cop a line from my DI colleague Chris Dohse, “What are they so angry about?” A man violently throws another into the audience and laughs diabolically even as his victim grunts in evident pain. A woman straddles/strangles a man between her thighs. Another repeatedly knocks the white-suited narrator (Ultima Vez veteran Gavin Webber) on his side as he’s talking. Men or women repeatedly kick their colleagues when they’re down, usually adding contemptuous regards. And overall, the tenor of the physical contact between performers, particularly in the partner dancing, was of the genre regularly exhibited by European companies, in which the dancing seems more like dance-fighting, or if you prefer dance-wrestling, or at least dance-grappling.

I decided to just ask the choreographer, after the performance, “Where’s all the anger coming from?”

To get the rest of the article, first published on June 9, 2009, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Dance Insider Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading dance critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015, as well as five years of the Jill Johnston Letter. To subscribe via PayPal, just designate your payment to, or write us at that address to learn how to pay by check, Euros, or British pounds. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions). Purchase before January 15 and receive a second, free copy for the recipient of your choice. Contact Paul at .