Dance is music, song, word, poetry”. Micha Van Hoecke often repeated it. The international choreographer and director passed away on Saturday 7 August at the age of 77 due to a tumor. He had established his residence for over thirty years in Italy, in Rosignano Solvay, where in 1981 he had created the Ensemble. It was a company formed by young people from the Mudra Center in Brussels, the school of the Ballet du XX siécle of Maurice Bejart, of which he had become a director. Van Hocke believed in total theater and had chosen Italy to make his dream come true: “Dance is beyond any technique. For me, the dancer is the expression of a human and not of a form ”.
Born in Brussels, his father a Belgian painter, his mother a Russian singer, he studied in Paris with Olga Preobrajenskaia. In 1960 he joined the company of Roland Petit and then in Maurice Bejart’s Ballet du XX siécle of which he became the trusted right-hand man. A vision similar to that of his teacher, which leads him to realize an interdisciplinary vision of theater, and a close-knit group of interpreters with whom he not only works but lives daily and confronts himself. Try to bring out its unrepeatable singularity from each one. And it was in those years, the 1980s, that I met him at the Pasquini Castle in Castiglioncello where the company resides. Among the dancers is also the Japanese Miki Matsuse, much younger than him, who will later marry him. “Look at her – he said – when she is on stage, her huge eyes catalyze the attention of the public.
To external eyes, the Ensemble seemed more like a family of artists than a company. Marriages, separations, births, shows, everything flowed like life. And it could happen by chance that we met Ferruccio Soleri, the Harlequin, called to “tell” the commedia dell’arte to the boys of the group. After the shows, we all went to dinner. Micha Van Hoecke loved to entertain himself by talking: anecdotes, culture, projects. He laughed and joked often. One had the impression that doing dance theater was the simplest thing in the world.
The ensemble’s official debut dates back to 1982 with the show Monsieur, monsieur in Brussels. Then Italy with other successes: La Derniere danse? Perspective Nievsky, Adieu à l’Italie (Critics’ Prize for Best Choreography, 1992), Carmina Burana, Orfeo- Pulcinella, Pélerinage, Pierrot Lunaire, Maria Callas -la voix des choses. Many productions for Ravenna Festival, many collaborations with international directors, from Luca Ronconi to Liliana Cavani. And then with Carla Fracci, Ute Lemper, Luciana Savignano, Lindsay kemp. But it is above all with the maestro Riccardo Muti that a partnership and many masterpieces are created. “The overall orchestration work is the most difficult. The choreography comes as a consequence, it has to blend with the music in a natural way ”, he explained.
Already dance director and choreographer in 1999 he was dance director and choreographer of the Massimo theater in Palermo in 2010-2014 he was at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, after the direction of Fracci. The Ensemble no longer existed formally and Micha Van Hoecke was not used to such impressive structures. “It’s not like running your own company, it’s another thing to work in an opera house. Less creativity, more management skills ”. In Genoa in the early 2000s, for Carmina Burana at the Opera House, he had met with some resistance. “I can’t make the choir raise their arms – he complained – it becomes choreographic movement”. His passion for myth, a profound search for the origins of a significant gesture. After directing Salomé (2008), in which the same choreographer recited the original French text by Oscar Wilde, in 2009 he gave a personal reading of Euripides’ “Bacchantes”, also present the actresses Chiara Muti and Pamela Villoresi. Among his classic tragedies is also Le Troiane (2011), in which the character of Hecuba was entrusted to the great mime-dancer Lindsay Kemp.
But let’s go back a bit. In 2007 he created Le Voyage for Ravenna Festival, a show that he dedicated to his Ensemble with Russian gypsy music. A little Russian, a little Belgian, a little Italian, its history is a meeting of cultures. During a tour in Russia in 2003, I asked him to bring everything they bought along the way to Italy for a report on a national weekly. I thought he was saying no. Instead: they returned from the trip with souvenirs, matryoshkas, empty bottles of vodka. “For me, the theater is a sacred place to discover yourself”.