Artist Profile: Stijn Celis

“So profound-is”

Stijn Celis was born in 1964 and is the product of a Belgian father and a Mauritian mother. Stijn started his dance education in 1980 at the Koninklijke Balletschool in Antwerp. He went on to dance with the Royal Ballet of Flanders, Zurich Ballet, Contemporary Dance Zurich, Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Cullberg Ballet. In 1998 Mr. Celis stopped performing and moved back to Antwerp to study stage design at the Hogeschool voor Dramatische Kunsten where he graduated with the mention “Highest Distinction.” From 2004 until 2007 Mr. Celis was the artistic director of the Ballett Stadttheater Bern where he created numerous works.

“In this piece there is a journey; a conversation with the music and text. I worked with the dancers proposing and counter-proposing ideas, using the poetry to motivate the work.”

“The experience with Ballet BC has been extraordinary because of the incredible dancers/people here. People who are willing to give their whole artistic soul towards getting something done.”

-Stijn Celis

To view Awe Studio Session photos, click here.

Video by Peter Smida.


A letter on Awe by Tara Williamson

As I grow artistically, it is not my only goal to improve choreography technically, but to also give full meaning to every step I do. This is an idea that, while working with Stijn Celis I found essential. Stijn has an incredible emotional intelligence. He communicated with us through poetic language and sensory prompts. We would learn his choreography with the emotional content already built in. In this way we worked to develop movement that externally expresses Stijn’s poetic voice. His work is extremely emotional and rich in gesture; at times very tender then suddenly contrasting with explosive execution. Stijn asked us to dance from a very honest place, but to also achieve a very powerful dynamic. Once I understood what Stijn was after I had to make sure what I was feeling matched what it looked like from the outside. For me this is where artistry really starts to develop. When dancers are confronted with the almost impossible paradox of reacting honestly in a way that can be observed and understood by an audience. When my colleagues and I were in this vulnerable state of expression, I could feel the energy in the room shift. There were these incredible moments of connection that would happen during our run-throughs. These magic moments were very poignant for us because we understand the enormous challenge of embodying the many ideas built into Stijn’s vision. Considering humanity in its many facets. Talking about connection, loss, struggle, joy, brutality, surrender, forgiveness and bewilderment. Embodying all of it at once is not really possible, but the act of trying is the work we do as artists. Each of us working to understand the possibility for impact that this work carries is what creates the ethos of “Awe”. It is where the humanity of the work is. Humanity is honest, it is flawed and therefore beautiful.

-Tara Williamson, November 2015

Choreographer Stijn Celis. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Choreographer Stijn Celis. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Ballet BC Dancers Brett Perry and Tara Williamson. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Ballet BC Dancer Christoph von Riedemann. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Ballet BC Dancer Christoph von Riedemann. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Ballet BC Dancers Andrew Bartee, Emily Chessa and Scott Fowler. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Ballet BC Dancer Rachel Meyer. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Dancer Andrew Bartee and Artists of Ballet BC in Awe. Photo by Michael Slobodian.