Created in 1945, the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles has spearheaded the democratization of culture in French-speaking Belgium and far beyond in terms of both programming and methods of production and distribution.
Working collectively, honoring the artistic vision, the ethics of responsibility, the critical spirit and cultural decentralization are the underlying principles and conditions of the Théâtre National. In May 2021, Pierre Thys was appointed General and Artistic Director of the Théâtre National, succeeding Fabrice Murgia. In an age of social, ecological and digital shifts, he is committed to re-examining the practices of the sector, through a dynamic of environmental responsibility and care, of exchanges and co-construction, of circulation and festivals. Specifically, the Théâtre National is exploring new forms of collaboration with artists and other cultural operators (in particular, the network of performance venues and cultural centers of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, and the Brussels, Walloon and Flemish cultural players), as well as new forms of interaction with the public.
While the Théâtre National acts as the epicenter of creation, (co)production and dissemination for artists from the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, it also represents a wider sphere of action, open to other creative territories, to other networks in Europe and worldwide. By favoring a strategy of engagement and partnerships, the Théâtre National contributes significantly to the internationalization of artists with a view to developing and promoting the Belgian French-speaking cultural and artistic sector as a whole.
In figures, this means that we play host to more than 200 performances of over 40 titles per season.
The seasons encompass a diverse array of artistic practices, featuring emerging and established names from Belgium and abroad. There are regular popular and festive events where hybridization plays a prominent role: Jours de fête, Urban Dance Caravan, Scènes Nouvelles, MàD - Mots à Défendre, À la scène comme à la ville. The creative projects nimbly blend theater, dance, performance art, contemporary circus, technology, literature, slam or the great contemporary ballets, in a wide variety of live collaborations in other spaces and contexts.
Jours de fête is a festive annual opening weekend of the season held in one of the five French-speaking provinces (Walloon Brabant, Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Namur). After all, by pursuing a policy of allyship between the Brussels and Walloon houses, in terms of solidarity and relations with the public, it is possible to bring out other sensibilities and give new meaning to theater.
Week-end ouvert and Urban Dance Caravan open the season in Brussels, a city and Capital Region with multiple cultures and languages. The result of a stimulating dialogue with cultural operators and actors in Brussels, they spotlight the urban cultures that grow out of this diversity, in order to revitalize cultural dynamics, as well as social ties, based on a strong feeling of belonging to the neighborhood and the city.
Scènes nouvelles is a meeting place for Belgian and international audiences and professionals to discover the best of multidisciplinary creation (theater, dance, circus, young audiences, performance art) by emerging artists from the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. The aim is to sustain creative work that is too little seen, by co-constructing the program with one or more supporting partners, and more broadly by strengthening the cultural and artistic network that provides both local anchoring and new grounds, in other locations, from other centers.
MàD stands for Mots à Défendre (‘Words to Defend’). MàD is the transdisciplinary festival that speaks to you! These are days in March which bring to life the power of words, in all their eclectic, militant and festive glory. From Belgium and abroad, through performances, theater, readings, dialogues, films or by giving free rein to artists... So many vibrant moments to share, in experimenting with words.
À la scène comme à la ville (‘On stage as well as in the city’), is the annual participatory event that brings to the stage the work done throughout the season by the associated artists together with the public: associations, school groups, students, professionals or spectators. To promote inclusion by bringing out the best in us all.
Sharing the Théâtre National as a platform is a very important concern. For five years, the Théâtre National is partnering with eight artists from the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in order to give them time and resources to work. In theater, there is Anne-Cécile Vandalem, Raoul Collectif, Gaia Saitta and Clément Papachristou. In dance, Ayelen Parolin and Hendrickx Ntela. In literature and slam, Caroline Lamarche and Joëlle Sambi Nzeba. And last but not least, the artist Mohammed El Khatib. There are also six companies in administrative residence. These are Raoul Collectif, Popi Jones, Kukaracha, Wirikuta, La Brute, and Ruda Ayelen Parolin.
The Théâtre National is « above all a space to see and hear bodies1 ». It tells the stories of « the bodies that matter » in their multitude.
1 Christian Biet, Professor of History and Aesthetics of Theater at the University of Paris - Nanterre, member of the Institut Universitaire de France (1952-2020)
General & artistic director
Pierre Thys graduated from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1994 with a degree in Contemporary History and has been working for more than 20 years in the cultural and artistic sector, both in Belgium and internationally. After spending a year in the educational department of the Botanique - Centre Culturel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, he joined the team of Charleroi Danse - Centre chorégraphique de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, led by the director and choreographer Frédéric Flamand. From 1995 to 2004, he held various positions there, including Head of Education and Director of Communication & International Relations. When he was appointed head of the National Ballet of Marseille, Frédéric Flamand invited him to join him there, from 2004 to 2012, as Director of Communication and Distribution. Alongside his duties, he assisted Frédéric Flamand with the programming of the 2003 Venice Dance Biennale, and also, from 2011 to 2013, with the programming of the Cannes Dance Festival.
In 2012, he joined Serge Rangoni and his team at the Théâtre de Liège - Centre scénique et Centre européen de création théâtrale et chorégraphique, as Director of Communication & International Relations, in charge of dance programming. He became Deputy Director in 2019.
In May 2021, Pierre Thys was appointed General and Artistic Director of the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles for a first five-year term. His aim is to « engender a collective imagination for artists and audiences that is creative, attractive, stimulating and mutually supportive ». The theatre of the body is at the heart of his project.