Hello, good people,

Beauty. Let’s talk about that again. About Beauty.

‘True poetry changes society and is therefore always revolutionary,’ Octavio Paz claimed in The Bow and the Lyre. Only when the poet - who, by carefully honing his technique, - transforms into a medium does the transcendent emerge, the intangible that we so desperately want to put away in our souls. Poetry has always been important in human history. This includes the poetic power of a painting, sculpture or piece of music. We look at and read art in the hope of encountering that poetic experience, that moment when your life changes. The moment something becomes poetry, the maker disappears. If this fails to happen, the shadow of the artist falls like a cloth over his work and suffocates the poetry.

Disappearing as an artist is an extremely difficult task. For many artists, it is a hopeless task. Too subversive in this age in which ‘identity’ is all-dominating. Every attempt by artists to remain anonymous and still be relevant has failed. That in itself is an interesting phenomenon. Perhaps Egyptian art survived for five thousand years because the artists remained anonymous? Has white Western art, since the Renaissance, reached its end point after only a few centuries because the creators grew so important? Salutary thoughts for yours truly who has quite an ego himself. But anyway, these were some corona-free thoughts. Time to get back to reality.

Corona, then. As regards Needcompany, we are among the lucky ones. We have kept working. We rehearse. Uncomfortable but goal-oriented. We even had a world premiere in Madrid with la legendaria Viviane De Muynck as Molly Bloom. We are rehearsing Billy’s Violence in our refuge in Molenbeek with some excellent actors from Spain and Argentina. Ten tragedies by Shakespeare in a single evening! A text by Victor A. Lauwers about the violence in the work of the English free spirit and more specifically about violence against women. Desdemona as a victim of femicide, that sort of thing. Violent, but inspiring. Grace Ellen Barkey as Cleopatra swinging to the music of Maarten Seghers: see it to believe it. And we will perform it: no livestream for us. That destroys the essence of theatre. We will play in a theatre near you.

I am writing this letter on the train home from Salzburg, where I spent ten days working in a completely corona-proof manner on Intolleranza 1960, Luigi Nono’s legendary opera about migration, racism and the end of the world. A masterpiece and an ode to poetry. We are preparing the dance sections and it is moving to go to the limit with 25 young dancers in a safe environment. The young dancers were hugely impressed by the fact that they could touch each other and put their bodies to the test without fear. Dancers who are moved by the fact that they can touch each other – what a world! The opera will be released this summer as one of the major works for the centenary of the Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Ingo Metzmacher. Fingers crossed.

Our task is to work as hard as possible. What we do as Needcompany is to ensure that as many people as possible can continue to make interesting work. We are preparing eight productions. There are almost 100 performances on the agenda for 2021 (in-house and joint productions). But it can all vanish just like that. Yet we remain true optimists. We have not had to let anyone go. We have always been able to keep working. What’s more: for every cancelled performance, we make sure that the freelancers are paid. On top of that, this month we are awarding our first fellowship. All this is not something to boast of. It is simply our job as a subsidized institution. To open doors and let light and air into the room. The number of artists working in MILL is therefore increasing in a pleasant way. Working together and having wonderful differences of opinion and, as an artist, disappearing into beauty. Yep. Long live positive conflict! Despite everything, it is good to be in Molenbeek.



In the summer of 2020, after lockdown – months of isolation, individual struggle and the big unknown as to how to carry on with work and with life – we felt an urge to be more committed to supporting artists in thinking and creating timelessly. The clash between reality and beauty became more striking than ever, demanding attention so we launched the fellowship   .

The response we received to the call for presence at    exceeded our expectations. We were thrilled to get more than 200 applications from around the world. It was not easy to take a decision and we wish we could have supported more artists. We want to thank all the artists who applied for the fellowship for generously sharing their time, thoughts and motivation.

A committee composed of Needcompany’s artistic team and Luk Lambrecht – our guest juror – is delighted to announce that the fellows of the first edition of    are: Shatha Al-Deghady and Helen Anna Flanagan. On our website, we further introduce these artists and their plans in the context of   . Of course, we will send out regular updates on these new artistic connections and collaborations.

The next edition of    will take place in Autumn 2021.

What's going on?

We are opening the doors of MILL, welcoming our first fellowship laureates and are continuing to look in these times for opportunities to create and be ready with new productions, but we mustn’t forget that everything is conditional. A hundred performances on the agenda can quickly become zero again. Freelancers who are taken on can all too easily see their much-needed jobs disappear and producers see their premieres go under. This is a harsh reality that can’t simply be brushed aside.


Nao Albet, Grace Ellen Barkey, Gonzalo Cunill, Romy Louise Lauwers, Juan Navarro, Maarten Seghers, Martha Gardner and Meron Verbelen have been working these past few months on the pared-down, brutal text that Victor A. Lauwers based on ten tragedies by Shakespeare with the original music by Maarten Seghers and directed by Jan Lauwers.

The confrontation between text, music and performers very quickly led to an intensely violent affair full of love. Are we just going to rest on our laurels? Not at all. The search for beauty continues mercilessly. World premiere on 8 July in Barcelona!


In 2021, Jan Lauwers will present two operas to the public. There is a new version of L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Monteverdi’s sensual love story that is set in a society where morality has been lost and greed and lust for power are prominent. In this Viennese version, the musical director is Pablo Heras-Casado, famous mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey revisits the role of the beleaguered emperor Nerone while the promising soprano Slávka Zámečníková takes on the role of the relentless Poppea. Premiere at the Vienna State Opera on 22 May.


For its centenary edition, the Salzburg Festival commissioned Jan Lauwers to tackle Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza 1960. Together with conductor Ingo Metzmacher, choreographer Paul Blackman and a group of students from The Bohdi Project and SEAD (Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance), Lauwers is currently creating an opera whose themes of migration, freedom and identity might just as well have led it to being called Intolleranza 2021. World premiere on 15 August in Salzburg.


After an acclaimed mini-tour with the French version through Spain in the midst of the corona mayhem, the story of Molly Bloom is getting a second life and Viviane De Muynck is setting to work on the last chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses in the original language. Written in 1922 but as topical as ever in 2021, and yes, the role of De Muynck’s life. English premiere at the KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen in Hanover on 27 May.


In MILL Grace Ellen Barkey is working on a new installation/performance. Obsessed with the night, tormented by insomnia and inspired by Wayang (the Javanese puppet show), Grace Ellen Barkey, who was born in Surabaya, Indonesia, investigates the night in her first solo performance. Rombout Willems adds a sound/music installation. In May she will share this phase of her research with the public in the form of ‘experiences’ in Toulouse and Erlangen.


In late 2020, the duo Lobke Leirens and Maxim Storms did a run-through of their new piece Folks&Fools (a Needcompany co-production) in MILL under strict corona measures with a view to a premiere on 17 and 18 March at the Nona Arts Centre in Mechelen. This premiere date was moved today to the autumn of 2021. It just goes to show how precarious and difficult the situation is at the moment.


Will the Dance Day on 24 April mean the return of the public to MILL? Let’s hope so. If all goes well, we will open the doors and invite you for a first encounter with the sensual world that Grace Ellen Barkey is creating with NIGHT.


Between 29 April and 2 May, Q-O2 will take over our home base for ‘Tuned Circuits’, the 2021 edition of the Oscillation Festival. With a combination of talks, concerts and workshops, the organization wants to immerse the public (preferably physically present) in the world of (electronic) music. If corona decides otherwise, the event can be followed in its entirety via an audio stream.


We can’t actually meet, but we are nevertheless looking to connect. With Invisible Time, a new platform on our website, we want to share the creation period – the invisible time that precedes the final performance – with the audience. It is a powerful statement with which we want to connect the audience to Needcompany on a deeper level. Invisible Time forces us to approach this connection in a different way. Billy’s Violence is up first.


In January, February and March, all our scheduled performances were cancelled or postponed. There were nine performances of Molly Bloom (including, for the second time, the French premiere), six of All the good, three of Isabella's room, and the reprise of Probabilities of Independent Events in Antwerp. The EXPLO in our home base was postponed for a third time to a date yet to be determined. But we continue to look ahead, with premieres and many plans that are gradually being confirmed.

24 AprilDay of Dance (MILL, Brussels)
27 MayMolly Bloom (EN)
(KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen, Hannover) PREMIERE
22,28,31 May
& 3,8 June
L’Incoronazione di Poppea
(Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna) PREMIERE
9-10 JuneMolly Bloom (FR)
(La Passerelle, Saint-Brieuc) FRENCH PREMIERE
11-24 JuneAll the good (Paris)
8-11 JulyBilly's Violence
(Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, Barcelona) WORLD PREMIERE
19-25 JulyMolly Bloom (Lisbon)
15,20,26,29 AugustIntolleranza 1960​ (Salzburger Festspiele, Salzburg) PREMIERE
23-26 SeptemberBilly's Violence
(Teatro Español y Naves del Español en Matadero, Madrid)

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