Photo: Luc Depreitere

It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend

Performance Details

Voetvolk / Lisbeth Gruwez and Maarten Van Cauwenberghe

  • Performance Image 1
    Photo: Luc Depreitere
  • Performance Image 2
    Photo: Luc Depreitere

An Interview with Lisbeth Gruwez

How did the idea for It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend come about?

The idea for Worse came from the experience of the power of speech. The fact that speech can heal, conjure, but also mislead. Sometimes these powers are close together and hard to distinguish. It’s no coincidence that I dance to a speech by a television preacher, the American pastor Jimmy Swaggert. His speeches were supposed to keep or lead people “on the right track”, but they also turned out to be poisonous attacks on freedom and pleasure.

Worse is the first work in your triptych on the ecstatic body: It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend (2012), AH/HA (2014) and We’re pretty fuckin’ far from okay (2016). Had you always planned for this to be the start of a series?

One thing often follows another, without any grand plan beforehand. Each of the three works does involve a certain intoxication, an ecstasy – an extraordinary state, actually. You step out of your body. That appealed to me, even more so then than now.

To what extent is Worse a political piece and how have your thoughts on the work evolved over time?

For me, the show has always been political. It seems even more so today than back then and so that sadly means it was, in all modesty, visionary. It's all in the title. I fear things will get much worse before they can improve.

Have you made choreographic changes to the work since it was premiered?

Performances always evolve the more you dance them but always in the spirit of how they were created. Changes will always be small, sometimes inspired by the moment, sometimes by intuition.

Can you talk about the choice of costume and the significance of having a woman perform to a man’s voice?

The idea for the costume comes from fashion designer Veronique Branquinho. I immediately loved the androgynous presentation. It takes the emphasis away from the fact that a man is speaking. Most people promoting hate speech are men, that’s certainly true, but women are not immune to it either.

I do wonder what it would be like should a man dance Worse. Maybe that would be too much. I think the androgynous costume is the right addition to the whole concept, the right dose of vulnerability without emphasising anything.

How did you and Maarten Van Cauwenberghe develop the soundtrack and decide which pieces would be mixed live and which would be recorded?

Maarten and I almost always rehearsed together. We could not have done it otherwise. It was a matter of finding which gestures I did to which words, which syllables. And we then had to practise that together. A nerve-racking job! Maarten did as much as possible live, so we could communicate with each other as much as possible. Only the longer, more soundscape-like pieces do not have to be done live as they mainly contribute to the atmosphere.

Have the experiences and challenges of Covid affected Voetvolk’s work or sparked new ideas or directions?

We were unable to dance many shows. That was depressing and financially difficult. But out of the forced break, and the sudden opportunity to do a lot of walking, sprang new ideas and eventually even two new shows: Into the Open, an explosive dance concert, with which we celebrated “the end of Covid”, and now Nomadics, a performance preceded each time by a four-hour walk, together with the audience.

What do you and Maarten hope to achieve with Voetvolk?

We try to make artistry accessible for people that wouldn’t normally be drawn to dance performances and in that way be ambassadors for contemporary dance. With each performance, we try to reach or connect with new audiences. We do that by mixing genres and creating new formats. For Nomadics, which has its world premiere in Amsterdam on 15 July, we seek to connect with our spectators more than ever by undertaking a long hike together with the audience before the show starts.

What do you think is the most important quality for you to have as a choreographer?

I want to be a good coach, with love for my dancers. I want to be able to lead them to the dream I have in my head. To get there, it is important to strip people of their ballast, let them be on a stage in their purest form.

What draws you to work as a dancer and choreographer?

To contribute something to society through a personal talent, which for me is dance and movement.

Text: Vikki Weston

Artistic Team

  • Concept, Choreography and Performance Lisbeth Gruwez
  • Composition and Sound DesignMaarten Van Cauwenberghe
  • StylingVeronique Branquinho
  • DramaturgyBart Meuleman
  • Light Design Harry Cole Caroline Mathieu
  • Thanks to Tom de Weerdt

Production Team

  • Production Voetvolk
  • Co-production Grand Theater Groningen Troubleyn/Jan Fabre Theater Im Pumpenhaus AndWhatBeside(s)Death
With the Support of The Province of West Flanders, the Province of Antwerp, the Flemish Community and Arcadi Île-de-France/Dispositif d’accompagnements

About the Artists

Photo of Voetvolk

Photo: Siska Vandecasteele


Voetvolk (Dutch for “infantry”) is a Belgian contemporary dance and performance company, founded in 2007 by dancer/choreographer Lisbeth Gruwez and musician/composer Maarten Van Cauwenberghe. The company’s work is an ongoing conversation between physicality and sound, with Gruwez and Van Cauwenberghe achieving an organic symbiosis within a fixed frame. Together they have created more than 10 productions that have been shown at the Festival d’Avignon, Festival de Marseille, Julidans, Tanz im August, Dance Umbrella and the Venice Biennale, among others. Voetvolk is allied to KC Nona, the Royal Flemish Theatre and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, and is company-in-residence at Theater Freiburg.

Photo of Lisbeth Gruwez

Photo: Siska Vandecasteele

Lisbeth Gruwez

Concept, Choreography and Performance

Lisbeth Gruwez studied at the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp and at P.A.R.T.S., kicking off her professional career at Ultima Vez in The Day of Heaven and Hell. Since 1999, she has worked with Jan Fabre on performances such as As long as the world needs a warrior’s soul, Je suis sang and the acclaimed solo Quando l’uomo principale è una donna. Gruwez has also worked with Jan Lauwers, Grace Ellen Barkey, Riina Saastamoinen, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Peter Verhelst, among others, and played the lead in Caroline Strubbe’s feature film Lost Persons Area. Alongside her work for Voetvolk, Gruwez conducts workshops, artistic advisory and coaching. She also belongs to KVS Faces, the open ensemble of artists and thinkers associated with the Royal Flemish Theatre of Brussels.

Photo of Maarten Van Cauwenberghe

Photo: Siska Vandecasteele

Maarten Van Cauwenberghe

Composition and Sound Design

Belgian musician, composer and co-founder of Voetvolk, Maarten Van Cauwenberghe graduated from the Catholic University of Leuven and the Jazzstudio in Antwerp. In 2000 he started working with Jan Fabre, creating music for As long as the world needs a warrior’s soul (2000), Je suis sang (2001) and Quando l’uomo principale è una donna (2004), and establishing a partnership with dancer Lisbeth Gruwez. Van Cauwenberghe has collaborated with a number of acclaimed artists and composed music for Guérin Van de Vorst’s feature film Le Part Sauvage, and for his own documentary Yell for Cadel on Cadel Evans. He also performs as a DJ and member of the psychedelic electropunk band Dendermonde. In 2016 he was awarded the Flemish Community Prize for Cultural Entrepreneurship.