Siel Van Dingenen

Siel is a contemporary dancer, choreographer and teacher. She has a deep fascination for the power of body language and is not afraid to bring taboos to the stage. Siel developed her own dance therapy technique and is full of plans for the future.

Do you remember your first encounters with dance?

My first dance performances were rather basic: I was four years old and threw some glitter around with a basket on my head (laughs). From classical ballet training at the amateur school, I then went to De Kunsthumaniora in Antwerp followed by the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance in Austria.

I have always found it important to know about the many different perspectives from which you can be an artist. Dance and choreography involve so many things. Therefore I’ve also worked as a light & stage manager and additionally took a Hatha Yoga teacher training course and a management course at UCLL. And right now I'm working on my educational bachelor's degree!

Are there themes that particularly fascinate you as a maker?

My own experiences are the common thread and the driving force behind my creations. For a long time I was not even aware of this, until I had to write an artist statement and realized: moving and creating is part of my own processing. It is my way of making difficult subjects or experiences accessible and to share with others. This is also why I also developed my own dance therapy technique.

From conceptual idea to concrete movements: it is a puzzling process for many. How do you guide something like that as a teacher/choreographer?

I myself often start from improvisation and self-designed movement tasks where I ask the dancers to let their movement be guided by a memory, a state of mind, a writing assignment around an emotion ... Letting movements emerge is a hugely personal process. So I find it important to be open to the input of all the dancers and performers in a group I am working with, even if it is very different from my own input on the theme we are working around. My main job is to let everyone's flow of ideas run wild, and use the ideas that emerge as an influence or starting point.

Can anyone learn to choreograph?

(thinks) In theory, yes, but the interest has to be there. Choreography doesn't have a set step-by-step plan that you can master and be done. There's not even really one clear definition for it because there are so many different interpretations and visions. For me, choreography starts with a kind of intuition that guides you. But that intuition is not enough: you have to feed it with training and by looking at the work of others to create your own choreographic language. That personal language is crucial for a choreographer: if you don't have it, it is going to show in your work.

Moving and creating is my way of making difficult topics or experiences accessible and to share them with others.

Are dancing and performing the same thing to you?

I see performativity as that extra layer on top of the technical performance. To me, performing is really a 'skill' in itself, and has to do with how you can invite the audience and the outside world into your own experience through your body language. That is something very powerful and you also notice it immediately when that aspect is missing. This applies, by the way, not only to dancers, but also to musicians, theatre actors,....

What common misunderstanding about your artistic profession would you like to eliminate?

I am often amazed at how few people see the 'bigger picture' of being an artist. They think I'm doing dances on a stage, but forget what's involved: intensive rehearsals and research processes, keeping your body and mind healthy, writing subsidy applications, organizing ticket sales, accounting... Even as a teacher, I am often confronted with a very unrealistic view of dance and choreography. It is so much more than memorizing recorded steps and reproducing them. So in my classes I always try to highlight as many aspects of the bigger picture as possible: how do you research from a certain question or theme, how do you put movements together, how do you choose costumes, scenery, lighting, how do you write down a choreography, how do you compose a program booklet,...

What does your ultimate dream course look like?

I love it when that intense, intimate vibe is created within a group. You get that, for example, by going abroad together for a while. In a dream scenario I would like to create an open choreographic platform together, to give new performers and makers the chance to develop their own artistic voice from emotions, memories, moods,.... And if I get to dream even further, we would then create a production that we would tour with, preferably at 'site specific' locations. With live musicians!

Imagine: you get unlimited resources to fully immerse yourself in something: a technique, a subject, a body of work....

In the next few years I would like to further deepen and develop my movement therapy technique, both with professional dancers and with amateurs, young people, children,.... I also very much want to share my own experiences as a mover and movement therapist with the next generation. But that's not a hypothesis, I'm going to do all those things. (laughs)

There are those who argue that therapeutic creation falls under therapy rather than art. Do you agree?

Why can't it be both? Dance and movement have helped me through certain traumas; I can't and won't separate the two. I also can't really stand that cliché of the tormented artist who cultivates his traumas instead of addressing them. That completely ignores the healing power of artistic creation from one's own personal, deeply human emotions and experiences. Or the power you have as a performer to get people to connect with their own emotional lives. I really don't see why you would want to dismiss the therapeutic implications of that. That's the point of my whole philosophy about art and dance; taboos needs to be discussed more and I want to fully use my professional domain to do so.

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Siel Van Dingenen
Written on Tue 9 April '24