What’s on: Dancers battle artistic lockdown in short, bittersweet performances


Culture continues online over the holidays, but there are light and poetry in the air too in our pick of the week’s activities at home and outside

Imagination is Alive

If there’s one thing this column has become accustomed to over the past nine months, it’s finding alternative ways to enjoy culture. As we head into the new year, that theme continues. Opera Ballet Vlaanderen has put together a series of 14 short performances created by Belgian and international artists and performed at a variety of locations across Flanders this year, and they’re all available to enjoy online now.

Under the heading of Imagination is Alive, the series is a powerful statement affirming that art and imagination cannot be confined. The 14 videos come in at just under an hour in total and have so far been viewed 400,000 times. In Exit/Awakening (pictured), dancers in a warehouse space in an Antwerp park depict an artist who longs to express themselves, break out of artistic lockdown and reach out to the audience, to the sounds of a violin sonata by Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff.

Flemish Radio Choir

There was no traditional live Christmas concert from the Flemish Radio Choir this year, so instead they’ve recorded a festive performance that can be streamed online for a few more days. The concert features favourites such as “The First Nowell”, “Jingle Bell Rock” and “White Christmas”. Download the lyric sheet here and sing along. The stream is free, but the choir is inviting donations to the charity 11.11.11 in return. Until 3 January

Tipi’s Mechelen

Tipi’s Mechelen
is an artistic-poetic installation in the city’s Vrijbroek park that offers a moment of shelter and calm. Visitors take a seat in a tipi built from trees cut down after storm damage and listen to poetry in a multitude of languages. Be it Dutch, Arabic, Albanian, Chinese, Lingala, Urdu, Tamazight, Spanish, Mechels or Turkish, all the poems are read in languages spoken in Mechelen and recorded by local residents. While corona meant the planned launch party has been delayed, the tipi is open to visitors during the park’s opening hours, and offers a chance for quiet contemplation of an exceptional time. Provinciaal Groendomein Vrijbroekpark, Mechelen

Sint-Truiden By Lights

The shortest day may have been and gone, but a little extra light never did any harm. Sint-Truiden By Lights offers an evening walk round the city illuminated by a series of light installations by local artists. The ramparts, park, cattle market, abbey and begijnhof are among the attractions lit up this winter; download the English-language guide here. Friday-Sunday, until 14 February

The Art Hour

Mechelen is currently hosting a singular exhibition, The Art Hour, which brings together 32 masterpieces of Belgian art, dating from 1887 to 1938. Each work is illuminated in the dimly lit chapel and a story recounted about each one along with a musical accompaniment. These tales are narrated by celebrities – including cyclist Tom Boonen, sexologist Goedele Liekens and film director Stijn Coninx – who are projected onscreen next to the work. It’s best to book ahead for the popular one-hour event via the website. Visitors can choose from Dutch, English and French, though only the Dutch versions contain the original narration; the other versions are dubbed. Until 31 January, Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Minderbroedersgang 1, Mechelen

Photos: Exit/Awakening © Opera Ballet Vlaanderen/Pauline Van Aelst; Flemish Radio Choir © 2020 Brussels Philharmonic; Tipi’s Mechelen © Provincie Antwerpen