Cindy Van Acker

© BAK / Charlotte Krieger

Cindy Van Acker

A sensitive yet resilient choreographer

Swiss Grand Award for the Performing Arts / Hans Reinhart Ring 2023

Cindy Van Acker was born in Belgium in 1971 and has been one of Switzerland’s leading choreographers for many years. She has enjoyed great success internationally in both the established theatre scene and – through her Cie Greffe – the independent dance scene. After training as a classical ballet dancer in Antwerp, she danced for the Ballet Royal de Flandre. Van Acker moved to Geneva in 1991 as a dancer with the Ballet du Grand Théâtre and founded Cie Greffe there in 2002. The company has been jointly subsidised by the City and Canton of Geneva and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia since 2009. Her most important artistic collaborators have included the choreographer Myriam Gourfink, the electronic musician Mika Vainio (1963-2017), the visual artist and lighting designer Victor Roy and the theatermaker Romeo Castelucci, who invited her to represent Switzerland at the International Theatre Festival in Venice in 2005. Since November 2017, Van Acker has been the “associate artist” for the programme of the contemporary dance association ADC in Geneva. Two of her outstanding productions have won the Swiss Dance Award in the category Current Dance Works: Diffraction in 2013 and Speechless Voices in 2019. She was also awarded the Leenaards Culture Prize 2023.

Van Acker’s trademark sensitivity shines through in her painstaking, almost scientific choreography, in which body, music and space work together in harmony. At the same time, both her solo and group works show a combative side – what she terms “de strijd” in her native Flemish. She performed her solo piece Corps 00:00 (2002) at the International Theatre Festival in Venice in 2005. This brought her international recognition and marked the start of a working relationship with Romeo Castellucci that continues to this day. Van Acker has choreographed some of Castellucci’s productions, starting with Inferno (2008), created for the opening of the Avignon Festival and performed in the Cour d’Honneur at the Palais des Papes. This was followed by the operas Parsifal (2011) for the La Monnaie opera house in Brussels, Moses and Aron (2015) for the Paris Opera, Tannhäuser (2017) for the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and three collaborations for the Salzburg Festival, the most recent being Don Giovanni (2021). Pneuma (2005) was her first group piece. Other works she has created for large ensembles include Magnitude (2013) for the Ballet Junior de Genève and Anechoic (2014) for 54 dancers at the P.A.R.T.S school for contemporary dance in Brussels. In 2017, Van Acker choreographed Elementen III – Blazing Wreck for the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Cindy Van Acker’s meticulously thought-out choreography seems to establish principles of formal composition: different rhythms, tempos, intensities and turns, translated into very beautiful and more often than not extremely complex sequences, each of which is a work of art in its own right. Anyone watching one of her shows becomes aware of the effort, the rigour, the research into forms that amplify sound, resonate with light, cause an elbow to bend, a head to turn, a hip to touch the ground…a left arm to move up in three beats as the right descends in two and the hips gyrate in seven, all of them following a musical harmony complete with counterpoint and melody… And yet the ultimate experience is when this form appears to give way to a totally different force that emanates from deep within and courses through both dancer and audience. This creative power opens up spaces, dilates time and expands the imaginary but nevertheless manages to draw our attention to such details as a bending elbow, a lifting leg, an oscillating sound or a diffracting light.   

Simone Toendury, jury member