Wim Vandekeybus was born in Herenthout (Belgium) on 30 June 1963. His father was a vet. After finishing secondary school, he moved to Leuven to study Psychology. In 1985, however, he decided to follow a completely different path and auditioned for Jan Fabre, who gave him a part in The Power of Theatrical Madness. One year later, he founded Ultima Vez.
His first show, What the Body Does Not Remember, was an international success, earning him a Bessie Award (New York Dance and Performance Award) for its innovation. And now after almost 30 years and a whole series of films and videos, Wim Vandekeybus is still searching for novelty and innovation. “For me, the form has to be different every time,” he explains. “This is why on one occasion I might create an extremely musical show (nieuwZwart or Speak low if you speak love…), then for my next project base a film on the experiences of one man (Monkey Sandwich), why I then might switch to a classical mythology play (Oedipus/bêt noir) or even an analytical piece in which theatricality plays a major part (booty Looting or Talk to the Demon).”
In all these very different productions, Ultima Vez nevertheless remains true to its own movement idiom. Tension, conflict, body versus mind, risks and impulses. Physicality, passion, intuition, instinct. These are essential elements that will always be part of Vandekeybus’ work. But on each occasion they are given a completely different appearance.
This variety is made possible partly through collaboration with dancers, circus performers, actors, musicians and other artists from a whole range of disciplines. Music and sound have naturally become the common thread running through his work. Peter Vermeersch, Thierry De Mey, David Byrne, Marc Ribot, Eavesdropper, David Eugene Edwards, Daan, Arno, Charo Calvo, Mauro Pawlowski, Roland Van Campenhout and Elko Blijweert have all composed music for his shows. As a general rule, their compositions are written during the rehearsal stage so that the show and the music develop symbiotically. However, photography and the lyrics and lines are equally important. In booty Looting, Danny Willems took photos – he walked around the stage among the performers, his eye to the lens, and presented his photos live. The writer Peter Verhelst has worked on scripts for Vandekeybus four times (Scratching the Inner Fields, Blush, Sonic Boom and nieuwZwart) and Vandekeybus used Jan Decorte’s adaptation of Oedipus, for Bêt noir, no less than three times before he was finally finished with this text.
In December 2012 Vandekeybus received the Keizer Karel prize from the Province of East Flanders. This prize is awarded every three years to an artist as a mark of his exceptional talent in the field of art and culture, his commitment and his work with younger generations. One year later Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez became the 6th laureate of the Evens Arts Prize. They receive the Prize for their important contribution to European contemporary dance, for their multidisciplinary work and for their social and cultural commitment.
2015 sees the screening of Galloping Mind, Vandekeybus’ first full-length film. It was shot in Hungary and on the Black Sea in Romania and tells a dramatic story of family ties, betrayal and triangular relationships, with Jerry Killick, Natali Broods and a gang of children on horseback in the leading parts.
In 2016 Ultima Vez has been around for 30 years. To celebrate this, the dance company publishes the long-awaited book The Rage of Staging. It presents an exclusive insight into Vandekeybus’ mind and soul and, in addition to written contributions by fellow artists and previously unpublished writings and notes, it contains more than 400 unique pictures illustrating his repertoire.
In 2019, within the framework of Europalia Romania, Wim Vandekeybus created Traces, in which he goes in search of primal instincts, traces older than man and his memory.