Face of Flanders: Alain Platel


Alain Platel, a leading figure in the Flemish dance world, was recently awarded the Champagne Prize

A Flemish prodigy

Choreographer and theatre director Alain Platel has been awarded this year’s Champagne Prize, given by the Champagne Bureau Benelux to a personality who stands out because of “talent, creativity and a continuous striving for excellence”.

Alain Platel was born in Ghent in 1959, the second child of architect André Platel and his wife, Andrée Huysman. Three of them went on to a public life in the arts: Pascale is a stage and television actress, now much associated with youth theatre, while Serge is the new director of the Festival of Flanders.

Platel began as a performer, studying mime with Marcel Hoste from the age of 11, later taking up dance. By the age of only 21 he was creating his own work and combining different influences and disciplines – music, theatre, dance and circus – which would define his later style.

In 1984 he and his sister Pascale founded the company he still runs, Les Ballets C de la B (standing for Les Ballets Contemporains de la Belgique) in Ghent and soon became a leading figure in the Flemish dance world, together with Wim Vandekeybus, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jan Lauwers and Jan Fabre, members of the so-called Flemish Wave who made their first public appearances in the 1980s.

In 2003, Platel withdrew from active participation in the company, leaving the dancers and guests to create their own productions while he returned somewhat to his artistic beginnings by studying sign language. It was a means of communication, he said, that “does not allow one to lie, because those who practise it are trained to see beyond the façade”.

He was back in 2006, just in time to help install the company on the Bijloke site in Ghent, home to the Bijloke concert hall, the STAM museum and the KASK academy of fine arts.

The prize jury praised Platel’s “creativity and time needed to allow ideas and choreographies to ripen, as well as the bringing together of different artists into a complementary whole”. Last year the prize, awarded for the first time, went to Brussels-based lingerie designer Carine Gilson.

Photo courtesy De Bijloke

Pascale Platel, a leading figure in the Flemish dance world, was recently awarded the Champagne Prize.

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Flemish dance

Flemish choreographers are considered some of the best in the world, and the region is known for the number of top choreographers based here. Contemporary dance has been flourishing in Flanders since the 1980s, when a handful of choreographers known as the "Flemish wave" drew international attention with radically innovative works.
Names - Pioneering Flemish dance choreographers include Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Alain Platel, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Wim Vandekeybus and Jan Fabre.
Funding - Dance companies Rosas, Ultima Vez, Les Ballets C de la B and the Royal Ballet receive the lion’s share of available government funding.
School - Founded by De Keersmaeker and based in Brussels, P.A.R.T.S. became the first professional school in Belgium focused on contemporary dance.
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Performing Arts Decree is signed, enabling dance companies to receive structural government funding

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P.A.R.T.S. founded