Lisbeth Gruwez dances Bob Dylan at Fluid Festival

Nov 1 and 2, 8 p.m. DJD Dance Theatre

by Stephen Hunt

Belgian dancer and choreographer Lisbeth Gruwez returns to Fluid Festival Nov. 1-2 with a show set to the music of Bob Dylan. Gruwez, who just performed the show in Singapore, spoke to The Halfstep via email about her upcoming Fluid Festival appearance.

Why dance to Bob Dylan songs?

Dylan’s music is almost undanceable and we did not really plan to make a choreography to his songs. It just happened.

Maarten Van Cauwenberghe, my partner-in-art, had a Dylan revelation period, and he kept on playing his songs in the tour bus, while I was preparing to dance It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend, back in 2012

Eventually, I started to warm up to and ended up with dancing on Dylan.

In the end, this performance is an ode to the forgotten ritual of playing a song for someone specifically. Physically, on a disk.

I found out that somehow there’s a correlation between the way Dylan sings and the way I dance. It’s all in the unpredictability: if you play a Dylan record for the second time, you might have the feeling it sounds completely different than the first time. That feeling corresponds with the elements of performance and improvisation I look out for in all of my choreographies.

How has your choreographic style evolved through the years?

For Lisbeth Gruwez dances Bob Dylan, I tried to explore a more fluid, female quality, in dialogue with the male music.

It’s dancing from the inside to the outside: gently flowing in the space like a stream, instead of cleaving your way through the room. Focusing on harmony instead of discord.

Will your show make us think of Bob Dylan differently?

Because of the live and visual factor coming in to play, you’re differently conscious about the lyrics.

Also, it’s possible you’ve never heard him sing so crystal-clear, thanks to the bright boxes in the theater (haha).

Is there a tension between classical ballet and contemporary dance in your pieces?

Of course. You can only cut up something if you know it to the core. A drawing artist, for example, has to know perspective in order to mess with the rules of perspective.

Which one wins?

They both do. It’s a draw: 1-1!

You were just in Singapore. Now, coming to Calgary. Do audiences have different reactions to what you do?

Every audience is different, but what struck me in Singapore was the fact that smartphones were allowed in the theatre, and everyone’s kind of addicted to it, even when the performance was on.

Still, they gave a big applause at the end, so I guess we’re fine (haha).

For people who feel anxious about contemporary dance because they feel they don’t get it, what is your advice?

There’s nothing to understand, only to feel. A good and clear performance can draw everyone in.

Have you performed in Canada before?

We’ve played the shows Birth of PreyIt’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend and AH/HA in Calgary and Montréal.

All of them wonderful experiences!

If not Dylan, whose songs would you most like to dance to?

(Pink Floyd founder) Syd Barrett’s!

More Lisbeth Gruwez:


Voetvolk/Lisbeth on Facebook

Lisbeth in the Montreal Gazette

More Fluid Festival:

Louis Hobson preview in the Calgary Herald

Saturday night’s alright for dancing, in The Halfstep

Fluid Fest preview in The Halfstep

Jenna Rodgers reviews Kickstart