Peter Lenaerts

Date: 07/09/2006

After living in Brussels for eight years, Peter Lenaerts feels he is getting restless again. In ‘99, he came to Brussels because of love. He likes living in the city because “it’s so nothing”. Brussels has no identity; it is an empty container, which makes it a good place to come back to. He is not sure whether Brussels is his home or not. More than anything else, Brussels is a place to work and a place to collapse and rest. When he is abroad, he is much more sociable and tends to go out more than when he is in town. Brussels as a dance center is characterized by the bi-annual flow and intake of “new dance blood” created by PARTS. There is also an influx of dancers who hope to find a job in Belgium.

Lenaerts does not consider himself as part of the Brussels dance community. He has never felt a sense of belonging but he wished he did. He thinks the reason might be that he studied literature but ended up somewhere completely different. The description he gives of the Brussels dance community is a grim one: it is “a highly competitive and extremely ungenerous community”, “a lonely and horrible place” with too much façade where everybody is alone on their own small island and where “it doesn’t even take five years before you’re old and outdated”. There is very little support for each other’s work because everybody is too absorbed in their own projects. The problem is that most people from the Brussels dance community go to see performances with only one question on their mind: ‘Would I have done it like that?’ Since the answer is often ‘no’, they automatically do not like the performance. Lenaerts notices a strange contradiction in the dance field that he does not see in other art fields: everybody is very enthusiastic about his own work but people are not often inspired by each other’s work. The only things that all those people share are the money that comes from the same source and the places where they perform. Although the performance field is a very social field, it is at the same time a very lonely one where it is hard to have a real conversation with someone. There is a system of hierarchy, that is to a certain extent determined by who is programmed and who is not. When you are not part of this in-crowd, you have a hard time. Peter Lenaerts argues in favour of more openness in the community, on every possible level. There is too little sharing now, even between people who work on similar projects with the same techniques.

Lenaerts calls himself a workaholic. He spends less and less time with his friends who do not belong to his work world. Working in the dance field was a rational choice he made. Of all the media and art forms he has worked for, dance seemed to be the best option because it offers most possibilities: it is very lively, there is money, infrastructure and interest. And most important: people in the dance field have a desire to work. The reason for this could be that contemporary dance is a relatively young and unexplored art form. Lenaerts’ personal and professional relationships completely overlap. Until four years ago, he had to do jobs on the side to support himself. He does not have to do that anymore but is very conscious of the fact that his life differs a lot from that of most people of his age, who have a well-paid job, buy property and start a family. He does not earn a lot but he is happy and free to do what he wants to do. His top priority at the moment is to implement his ambitious ideas about sound design. When that project is finished, he will need a new thrill. He is a bad networker because he does not like to talk about his work. In the dance field it has become more and more important to be able to talk about and justify your work. If not, your work is considered as intuitive which is not a positive qualification.

affinity – eager – ambitions – desires – to think sound – restless – vague – empty container – past/present – workaholic – collapse – rational choice – career step – exciting – pioneering spirit – small islands – extremely ungenerous – outdated – new dance blood – Ireland – family stuff – hierarchies – shallowness – in-crowd – total horror – enable – consolidated – thrill – straightforward – constructive – façade – intuitive – elitist – selling yourself – modestly – mental breaks


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