In just 4 weeks time, as the James Ensor celebratory year gears up for its official start, JBA’s highly anticipated production of JAMES will premiere, a performance taking place in the Antwerp Opera on 24 & 25 February. In the JBA studio, the fascinating process behind the ballet itself is revealing as if from the mists of time, a three-dimensional portrait of the man himself and his oeuvre.

Two of the many who have immersed themselves in this creation are choreographer Mauro de Candia & visual artist Julie Coppens. Brought in by artistic director Alain Honorez, they are fulfilling his belief in their skills.

De Candia, behind JAMES’ dramaturgy and choreography, is former director of the Osnabrück Dance Theater in Germany and well known as a visionary dance maker whose highly-expressive productions have been warmly received throughout Europe. Julie Coppens is the artistic designer at the heart of a family-run production company and known for her breathtaking scenographic work on JBA’s CINDERELLA last year.

Already in the rehearsal studios lie dozens of incredibly life-like masks, painstakingly kneaded, shaped and painted by Julie. It’s as if we are seeing characters emerging from of Ensor’s, canvases – waiting patiently for the dancers to breath life into them. Julie Coppens has succeeded in the unbelievable task of capturing the expressions which Ensor, with his sharp observation and satirical look at human behavior, was so known for.

Mauro for his part is molding the dancers, creating with his inventive movement and groupings, shapes and forms, emotions and feelings which resonate meaningfully even in the bare rehearsal room. With his intrinsic musicality, de Candia has avoided recognizable or even minimal thematic scores to illustrate the portrait of Ensor, man and artist. Instead he has gone for little-known fragments by well-known composers living during the same period as Ensor.
Slowly but surely this kaleidoscope is coming together; music, movement, colour, emotion – like pieces of a living puzzle which was the artist called James Ensor.

© Nicha Rodboon & Filip Van Roe