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APRIL 6-19 2012 ISSUE 15 €4.95

He owns the night Meet Brussels bar king Frédéric Nicolay

Spring into action with our handy garden guide


How and where to network in Brussels


René Jacobs conducts Orlando at La Monnaie


Wellness weekends

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Contact us at Are you an expatriate ? If so, you need support and advice. That’s

even before you arrive in Belgium : accounts, bank cards, rental

exactly what ING can provide for all your banking and insurance

guarantee, etc. To find out what ING can do for you, don’t

requirements. Our ING Expat service deals with everything,

hesitate to call one of our advisors on + 32 (0)2 464 66 64.

ING Belgium SA/nv – Bank – avenue Marnix 24, B-1000 Brussels – Brussels RPM/RPR – VAT BE 0403.200.393 – BIC (SWIFT): BBRUBEBB – IBAN: BE45 3109 1560 2789 (Account: 310-9156027-89). Publisher: Philippe Wallez, cours Saint-Michel 60, 1040 Brussels.

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Celebrating 50 years

Living with the bomb

Thirty-odd years ago, home improvement in Belgium meant adding a bomb shelter. Today, we’ve switched to installing solar panels


It may surprise anyone under the age of 40, but back in the 1980s at the height of the Cold War, many of us believed that the only way to protect ourselves from nuclear annihilation was to build bomb-proof shelters in our back gardens. The cover story of the April 11, 1980, issue of The Bulletin described the enterprise of a canny businessman in Marcinelle who would install one, equipped with Geiger counter, gas masks and aluminium clothing, for little more than the price of a swimming pool.


With the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the gradual building of better international relations between what were then referred to as the East and the West, the market for bomb shelters collapsed and existing shelters were redesigned to serve as recreation rooms and storage space. The entrepreneur in Marcinelle returned to his previous business of building modest country residences near Charleroi. Today we have achieved a healthy fatalism, or as Doris Day sang in the 1950s, “Whatever will be will be.� By Cleveland Moffett



p14 Frédéric Nicolay


p32 p42 Tram Wellness Experience weekends


p53 ArtBrussels


Politics & Business

Lifestyle & Community

Culture & Events

9 News In Brief

29 Lifestyle In Brief 34 Food – Love at First Bite Food blogger Katie Joyce shares her foodie favourites

54 Focus – René Jacobs As René Jacobs prepares to conducts Orlando at La Monnaie, he celebrates superstar Handel and despairs over uncultured audiences

36 Focus – Belgium in bloom From public gardens to garden centres, our guide has spring covered

58 Focus – Diego Marani Meet the EU translator-turned-novelist who invented his own language

40 Up my Street Altitude Cent

60 14 Days The Bulletin’s cultural highlights for the fortnight ahead – in Brussels and beyond

Cover story

14 Focus – Frédéric Nicolay On the eve of an opening of yet another bar, we interview Brussels’ biggest food and drink entrepreneur 18 Know-how Networking in Brussels 20 Focus – Brussels 2040 Architects and urban planners imagine the future of our city in a new exhibition 23 Your Money Making the most of your mortgage 24 The Brand – Van de Velde The Flemish family company that has positioned itself as global lingerie brand

42 Travel Wellness weekend breaks in Belgium 47 Digital Our technology tips 48 Behind the Scenes Remetafrein 49 Community

69 Film Reviews and recommendations for not-to-be-missed cinema 71 Property 76 Classifieds 80 Jobs 82 Capital Life Salsa teacher Oscar Bonilla opens up his diary for The Bulletin

Editeur Responsable /Verantwoordelijke uitgever: John Stuyck, A. Gossetlaan 30, 1702 Groot-Bijgaarden. Opinions expressed in The Bulletin are those of the authors alone. For reasons of space, street names in Brussels are given only in their French version.


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Politics & Business

Wheels on fire

BOONEN CLINCHES TOUR Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen has become only the fifth man to win the Tour of Flanders three times, squeaking over the finish line just a bike’s length ahead of second-placed Italian Pippo Pozzato on April 1. Boonen, Pozzato and Alessandro Ballan broke away with 18km to go in the day-long 255km race, which switched its finale to Oudenaarde after four decades of ending in Meerbeke and the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Pre-race favourite Fabian Cancellara, the 2010 winner from Switzerland, crashed in the feed zone with 62km left to ride, breaking his collarbone. Boonen last won the Tour in 2006, and after years in the doldrums he has enjoyed a purple patch in recent weeks, winning the prestigious Belgian E-3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem classics and now topping the UCI WorldTour rankings.




Join the club


e’ve had the message drummed into us that, these days, life is all about the social network. It’s about who you know and how you are connected, so we acquire friends and cultivate acquaintances online and list them on myriad internet accounts. Having an online profile is fine, but there is no substitute for Real Life™. Make sure your physical presence matches up to your virtual one – and by that, we mean get out there and network the old-fashioned way. Shake some hands, introduce yourself, strike up a conversation, offer your services and listen to what others have to say. You never know, it could help others, maybe land you a job and possibly raise your professional profile. Most importantly, you might even make friends and have fun.

Best for business

The British Chamber of Commerce, or BritCham, as it is affectionately known, holds more than 100 events each year and is considered by many to be an essential point of reference for business networking in Belgium. Two-thirds of its members are from non-British companies, giving it a truly international outlook. Out with the stuffy image of establishment CEOs slapping one another on the back and in with initiatives such as EU Committee, Business In Belgium and the excitingly named Brussels New Generation, which is BritCham’s networking arm and encourages active participation from under-35s. The website is regularly updated with information about seminars, talks and networking events, some of which are open to non-members. Membership for individuals is €340 per year. Tel 02.540.90.30,

Best for start-ups and technology

Beta Group Co-Working is a self-professed “geekfriendly professional network” that specialises in technology start-ups and positions itself as technologyfriendly, although you don’t have to be a geek to join. Beta Group actively helps members find a “connectedness” between one another, their projects, businesses and skills. If you’re looking for a working space, you can rent desk space with flexible options. It hosts and sponsors venues for free events and is open to nonmembers, and with a list of 5,000 contacts already on their books, these people know a thing or two about networking. You can listen to inspiring speakers, learn about what other start-ups are doing and meet people who have turned bright ideas into profitable business reality. The next big event is on April 19. Registration is obligatory but free. Tel 02.737.67.69, Twitter @betacowork

Best for business in Brussels

Brussels Enterprises Commerce and Industries (BECI) was set up by the Brussels Chamber of Commerce to represent the interests of Brussels’ business and industry, as well as to help businesses navigate domestic and international markets. Besides hosting formal seminars and courses, there is also the social side of BECI, such as their Speed Business Lunches, Afterwork drinks events and annual garden party. Sign up via the website or email to be kept informed of future activities. Membership costs €191; many events are open to non-members. Tel 02.648.50.02,,

Best for Friday hangovers Many’s the newcomer who has asked where to meet people during their first week in town. For the ‘just add water’ networking experience, try the EU Quarter, where the bars of Place du Luxembourg are heaving with people every Thursday from about 17.00. You might be rubbing shoulders with parliamentary assistants, lobbyists, stagiaires or an EU cabinet bigwig, but the spirit of Thursday evenings at Plux, as it is sometimes known, is ‘see and be seen’ – but keep your voice down if you’re going to tell office anecdotes, as you never know who might be sitting at the next table. Place du Luxembourg, 1050 Brussels.

Best for women Beyoncé asked “Who runs the world?” and the answer was ‘Men’. It still is. However, there are people trying to change that. Jump is an organisation that champions the advancement of women in the workplace, offering practical tools to women who wish to get the best out of their careers. As well as organising an annual forum, Jump Academy offers a range of relevant seminars and workshops that aim to enhance professional skills and offer career coaching. The next Jump Forum is on April 26 in Brussels at the Brussels 44 Center and places were still available at the time of writing. Sign up and pay for individual events, or subscribe to the free newsletter. Tel 02.346.32.00,


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Best for promoting peace via friendship

People to People is focused on spreading peace through international understanding and friendship. With more than 80,000 members worldwide, it organises social, cultural and educational activities and carries out humanitarian and community work. Find the dates of upcoming events by searching for People to People on There is an informal coffee morning every Thursday at 9.00 and get-togethers every first Friday of the month at 18.00, at Brussels’ Aloft Hotel. Annual membership fees start at €25.,

Best for meeting young professionals

@Seven provides an environment where young professionals working for European institutions and multinational companies can meet and unwind after work one Thursday each month from 19.00. Happy hour is from 19.00 to 20.00 and you can also book dinner, though a buffet meal is included in the entrance fee. Large groups and corporate parties are welcome – just remember to book so the @Seven team can take care of you. It’s for members only and membership starts from €45 for six months. Non-members need to present business cards or work badges at the door to be admitted, or be accompanied by a member. Mirano Continental, 38 Chaussée de Louvain 1210 Brussels, tel 0472.05.30.03,

Best for feeling like a jetsetter Recognising the gap for a more sophisticated night out targeted at Brussels’ discerning, internationally minded party-goers, Martin Sjöberg and Jonas Lundqvist started Eurocrats parties back in 2008. These parties have since gone from strength to strength and are always held in Brussels’ swankiest venues. Sign up online and you’ll be kept informed of upcoming dates and venues. Membership is free. Tel 02.325.48.62,

Best for serving the community

Shake some hands, introduce yourself, offer your services and listen to what others have to say

Serve the City is a volunteer-led organisation that involves itself in practical projects that are of use to people in need. By working with charities and not-forprofit organisations, Serve the City volunteers offer language classes, food, sports training and more. Upcoming events include volunteering to assist victims of abuse on April 21 and a spring clean somewhere in the city on May 19. The website is regularly updated with information closer to the time of the events but it is never too early to volunteer your time, your skills and your willingness to help others. Tel 02.734.35.02,

Best for inquiring minds

Imagination Club meets twice a month to discuss a range of topics, with the aim of encouraging creative thinking, innovation and life skills. Anyone can offer to run a workshop on any topic, and anyone can join a workshop with only a small donation requested to cover snacks and room rental. The audience then gives helpful feedback to the presenter. Upcoming workshops include The Secret to Failure (April 11), Activating Secret Wishes (April 25), The Art of Writing Postcards (May 9) and Emotional Intelligence (May 23). Membership is free but workshop attendance requires a minimum contribution of €10., Twitter @imaginationclub

11 Best online-to-real life network Set up five years ago as an interface between online and real-life networking opportunities, Expats Networking Brussels is members-only but the main requirement is that you be Brussels-based or have a Brussels work connection. It hosts events every month or two in various venues, with drinks, snacks and guest speakers. There is also an opportunity for members to request a presenting slot in which they make a speed presentation on a proposed topic. With membership now over 2,000, there is a good reason to connect with this group and reach some dynamic professionals. Membership is free, but you have to send a request to join the group via



The Brand – Van de Velde

What lies beneath Belgium’s best-known lingerie company may sell undergarments, but on the world stage it’s no underdog by stephanie duval


alk into any lingerie store in Belgium and you’ll see just how well things are going for luxury lingerie company Van de Velde. Many of its brands, most notably Marie Jo and PrimaDonna, are present in the country’s high-end boutiques, and brand recognition of the company is spectacular. Although that is not yet the case in neighbouring countries such as Germany, the Netherlands or France, it would be a mistake to suggest Van de Velde is a purely local success. It turns out there’s more to the company than meets the eye. Spanning three generations, Van de Velde has evolved from a small family business that started off making corsets in the early 20th century to an international operation with a scope that includes product and brand development and an expanding global retail network. Last year, the company made headlines when it announced the acquisition of a majority stake in British company Rigby & Peller, best known for being the official supplier of undergarments to the Queen of England. The story of Van de Velde as we know it today starts with brothers Herman and Karel Van de Velde and their cousin Lucas Laureys, who inherited the company in 1980 from Herman and Karel's father William Van de Velde. Almost immediately, they decided to implement some changes. “It was a beautiful company: profitable, with a strong reputation and without any debts. However, it was still a relatively small company,” explains Herman Van de Velde, a member of the third generation of the founding family and current managing director. Sensing a shift in the market, the company’s new bosses understood they had to go along with it. “My father wasn’t

exactly a creator,” Herman says. “He launched new products, but only if and when inspiration struck. Now, there’s a system for it: creation is at the heart of this company.” Gradually, the company turned from a supplier of undergarments into a fashion business that produces 5 .5 million items every year. Van de Velde started creating and buying brands and put design departments in place for each of them. “We took care not to lose sight of the quality of our product, though,” says Herman. “It’s always a question of matching creativity to functionality, because fitting is so important. A woman will never decide to buy lingerie when she sees it; she will decide once she tries it on.” Herman’s daughter Lien joined the company five years ago and quickly rose to the position of brand manager for Marie Jo L’Aventure, the less ornate and slightly sportier sister brand of Marie Jo. She explains the make-up of the design team: “We have stylists and pattern makers, but we also have much more technical profiles such as material and production engineers,” she says. “They take care of the fitting and quality by developing special materials, studying elasticity and checking durability. The composition of each collection is actually pretty much teamwork.”


Van de Velde's workshops are a hive of activity This page

Belgian tennis player Yanina Wickmayer models a Marie Jo Intense sports bra


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he strategic move to become a a producer of brands,” says Herman. The fashion company quickly paid company went on to buy German brand Prioff for Van de Velde. Today, the maDonna in 1990 to expand its reach to bigseasonal collections generate 70 ger sizes, and it later added spin-offs such percent of the company’s turnover. The as Marie Jo L’Aventure, Marie Jo Intense remaining 30 percent comes (fashionable sports lingerie) from its more timeless articles. IN FIGURES and PrimaDonna Twist (bigger “The majority of our business • 5.5 million sizes for a younger audience) to is done with products that are products every year target different subgroups of less than six months old,” says • More than 25,000 customers. The company also lingerie items sold Herman. This conclusion leads daily bought Spanish brand Andres him to explain the second big • 300 models added Sarda in 2008, the design team change the company has under- to the brands and of which remains in Spain but gone in the past few decades. collections each works closely with the producyear “Van de Velde has turned into tion team in Van de Velde’s • 46 percent of a marketing company. My fa- annual turnover home town of Schellebelle in ther used to say: ‘Just make a comes from East Flanders. good product and the rest will PrimaDonna brand “While marketing Van de follow.’ That is true, and we’re Velde, we needed to make clear still obsessed with our product, but it’s not choices,” says Herman. “Compared to the enough anymore.” previous generation, we upgraded signifiSo in 1981 Van de Velde launched its first cantly. With the price of a bra starting at new brand, Marie Jolie, later shortened to €55, we are all the way at the top of the pyraMarie Jo. “That was our breakthrough as mid, in the most luxurious segment 


of the market.” This market positioning and the company’s ardent devotion to the right styling and fitting of its products on its customers led to important consequences for the company’s retail strategy, the final focus point for this generation’s leadership. “You can buy lingerie online or in supermarkets, but not ours. We sell only through specialised retailers,” explains Herman. “That was not an easy decision to make, because this kind of retail business has been steadily declining in recent years. In Belgium you’ll find many good, independent lingerie boutiques, but that is less and less the case in the rest of Europe.” This evolution could have posed a sizeable problem to Van de Velde’s expansion plans, so the company decided to take matters into their own hands. Starting with the opening of its own stores in Germany (under the name Oreia) and France (La Boutique Marie Jo), Van de Velde later set its sights on acquiring strategic retail organisations or multibrand store chains in other countries to reinforce their presence in local markets. In 2007 it started an alliance with American chain Intimacy Management LLC, in which Van de Velde would go on to take a majority stake in 2010. “Before our involvement, 20 percent of Intimacy’s turnover was based on our brands,” says Herman. “Today we’re up to 45 percent.”


he same story goes for the acquisition of Rigby & Peller last August, and the latest joint venture marks the introduction of Van de Velde into China, as it joins forces with Hong Kong-based marketing and distribution company Getz. “We decide which brands are sold in those stores, but we are smart about it. It’s not possible to fill them only with our own brands; our assortment is too limited for that. You need to complement it with beach- and nightwear, for example,” says Van de Velde. “Besides, how could we decide from Schellebelle what the local markets need? Gradually, we’d like to organise a buying structure in which roughly 50 or 60 percent is managed from here, and the rest is up to the local market.”


Herman Van de Velde is among the third generation to take the reins of the family business


or all its international ambition, Van de Velde’s operations are still fundamentally Belgian. The headquarters are still in the same town where it all started in 1919, and everything apart from the actual assembly of the products happens there. “The design teams are here, we have European fabrics shipped to here and cut on the premises and only then are they shipped off to Tunisia, China or Romania to be assembled. All finished products come back here for quality control, packaging and distribution,” explains Herman. Lien, who is in her twenties, is too young to really remember the early days, but as the first member of her generation stepping into the family business, she does sense a change: “You notice how everything is growing bigger and more structured. It’s a challenge to keep that specific family philosophy and authenticity a part of the company in the future, but I think it’s important to stay in tune with that enthusiasm and passion so typical for family companies.” It has got them this far, and you can’t help but wonder what else is in store for this Flemish family business. 


Founded by Margaretha and Achiel Van de Velde in Schellebelle as an atelier for corsets 1948

Their son William Van de Velde joins the company 1980

The third generation takes the wheel: brothers Karel and Herman Van de Velde and their cousin Lucas Laureys 1981

Launch of the first real brand, Marie Jo 1990

Takeover of German brand PrimaDonna 2001

The company buys a stake in Top Form International, a Chinese producer of lingerie, and moves parts of the assembly process to Hong Kong 2002

Opening of own stores in Germany and France 2011

Takes majority stake of 87 percent in British lingerie company Rigby & Peller and creates a joint venture with Hong Kong company Getz Bros for retail in China


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Lifestyle & Community

Jolly hockey sticks

OSAKA HOCKEY With the Belgian women’s field hockey team cruising through to the London Olympics with a 4-1 defeat of Ireland last month, and the men’s team qualifying at the European Championships last August, we suspect that people may start taking a bit more interest in hockey over the coming months. Hockey is already Belgium’s fastestgrowing sport and there are numerous clubs across the country, including 15 in the Brussels region, where you can practise your square passes and reverse-stick pushes. But if you’re looking for the right gear then look no further than Osaka. No, not the Japanese city, but the hockey lifestyle brand launched in Antwerp last year by former Irish hockey international Stephen Bulter. As well as a vast range of rainbow-hued hockey sticks ranging in price from €65 to €270, Osaka also sells shoes, bags, clothes and accessories, modelled by a gaggle of Abercrombie-esque hockey totty.



LOVE AT FIRST BITE The inside scoop on foodie favourites Katie Joyce


atie Joyce launched her blog in January 2011. Using normal Belgian supermarkets, she cooks food that can easily be found in Irish and English shops, but which can be hard to come by here. Along the way, she also samples some of the more unusual – for non-locals – things that Belgian shoppers take for granted, such as marcassin (young wild boar) and cerf (deer). Imparting advice on where to shop and viable substitutes, as well as exploring the local culture and cuisine, Katie shares her tips and tricks for finding your way around Belgian shops and kitchens. www.365thingsilearnedinmykitchen.


When I want a good red wine, I’ll usually go for an Australian – Shotfire is among my favourites. Crush Wine on Rue Caroly near Place du Luxembourg has a wonderful selection of wines from Down Under. If I’m going local, I love tripel beers – Tripel Karmeliet is delicious. We say: Crush Wine is conveniently located just a short walk from the European Parliament and sells more than 200 premium red, white, rosé and sparkling wines from Australia and New Zealand. Crush Wine’s tasting events are very popular; check their newsletter for dates CRUSH WINE 39 Rue Caroly, 1050 Brussels

“Mappa Mundo serves my favourite mojito in Brussels, and it’s a great place to go with friends or for people-watching”


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I love Monk near Place SainteCatherine in Brussels centre. The beer menu is extensive and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. It’s a great place to go for a chinwag with a group of friends. There is always lots going on around Place SainteCatherine, and it’s very good for food shopping. Of course, nearby is Place Saint-Géry, with Mappa Mundo, which serves my favourite mojito in Brussels. It’s another great place to go with friends or for people-watching.

About two shops up from Monk is a wonderful little mushroom shop, which also sells fresh fruit and vegetables. And Jack O’Shea’s butcher near Schuman can always be relied on for far more than just meat. They have brown bread (I’m yet to find a good Belgian flour substitute for Odlums Wholemeal) and a great selection of condiments and sauces to go with their meats. The staff are also very knowledgeable, which makes a huge difference.

When nothing else but honestto-goodness, simple food will do, I’ll head to La Grande Porte. It’s Belgian cooking at its best. I particularly like the stoemp, but everything I’ve had there has been excellent. I credit this place with re-introducing me to Brussels sprouts. For treats and special occasions, Le Passage in Uccle is always a good choice. The menus offer great value and the wine list is excellent.

For the ultimate in comfort food, this rich and saucy pudding sticks to your ribs and leaves you hanging for more. As guests tuck into this, there is always a moment of silence as the sugar and cream attack and then coat the senses.


I think I’ll opt for the humble tinned chickpea. For me, they are an essential in every cupboard and, for once, they’re easier to find here than in Ireland. I like to mix them with kidney beans, sweetcorn and fresh coriander for a simple salad, make falafels for a quick evening meal or toss them in a tagine for dinner with friends. They’re so versatile!

We say: Jack O’Shea’s is a long-time favourite of Brussels expats. It offers the kind of quality cuts of lamb and pork that one would expect from an eighth-generation butcher’s family. And its grass-fed/ grain-finished Black Angus beef is marbled, succulent and well-known among chefs in Brussels’ and London’s finest restaurants JACK O’SHEA 30 Rue Le Titien, 1000 Brussels

We say: La Grande Porte is practically a Brussels institution and is tucked away near Place Sablon. It’s just hidden enough to maintain a local, nontouristy feel, although the restaurant is used to an international crowd. People go here with their families or in large groups to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and classic Belgian dishes like waterzooi, rabbit in plum sauce, Flemish beef stew and, of course, heaps of fries LA GRANDE PORTE 9 Rue Notre-Seigneur, 1000 Brussels Tel 02.512.89.98 LE PASSAGE 17 Avenue J&P Carsoel, 1180 Uccle

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING • 150g pitted and chopped dates • 250ml boiling water • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda • 75g butter • 125g cassonade (light brown sugar) • 2 eggs • 2 tbsp golden syrup • 1 tsp vanilla extract • 200g plain flour • 1 tsp baking powder Sauce • 125g cassonade • 100g unsalted butter • 200ml double cream

Preheat oven to 180C and grease cake tin (20cm round). Put the dates in a bowl, add the bicarb and pour in the hot water. Leave aside. Cream the butter, then beat in the sugar. Add the eggs and mix, then stir in the vanilla and the syrup. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Tip the date mixture in and fold this through until combined. Pour into tin and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes. Once done, stand the cake for five minutes before turning out and cooling. To make the sauce, put the butter, sugar and cream in a saucepan and heat until dissolved but not boiled. Serve the pudding warm with toffee sauce and a few scoops of vanilla ice cream


Scot ti Awa sh Critic r s Best ds 2009 d Best irecto Best ensemb r le prod uctio n

20 & 21.04.2012 - 20:30



Cover: Š Tim Morozzo 2008

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Culture & Events

Art Brussels

THE CENTRE OF THE ART WORLD shifts to Brussels at the end of this fortnight, when for four intense days thousands of collectors and curators of contemporary art descend on the capital to attend the 30th-anniversary edition of Art Brussels. The general public is welcome too, of course, and is expected to show up in droves at Brussels Expo to see the latest offerings of 182 carefully selected international galleries that are exhibiting works by more than 2,000 established and emerging artists. (Jasmina Cibic’s Boutique Airports II, above, can be found at the stand of Ljubljana’s Škuc Gallery.) Talks with art-world eminences are held daily, as are tours. The fair’s teeming off-programme spills into the city centre and beyond: private collections open their doors to the public; 24 galleries open late on April 20; Galeries Cinema is screening artists’ videos; Egmont Park hosts a free outdoor sculpture show; and all are welcome at a party on April 21.



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by Ian Mundell



Under the Hawthorn Tree




parents’ ideological faults and one false step could ruin everything, for her and her family. Sun is not discouraged and his gentle but persistent courtship slowly wins Jing over. Zhang gives his love story such a rosy, romantic glow that this period of purges, forced relocation and hard labour starts to look distinctly Arcadian. That may be necessary if a film about this period is to be made openly and circulated in contemporary China, but it also creates an aura of communist kitsch that is perversely attractive to western eyes. It’s hard to cling on to an objective critique of the Cultural Revolution once exposed to this idyllic picture of village life, to say nothing of the snappy socialist show tunes. Zhang may have set aside the grittier side of his storytelling, but he hasn’t lost his eye for actors. The waif-like Zhou and the rangy Dou make a very attractive couple, and while their romance seems ridiculously convoluted at times, it’s hard not to fall in love with them.

Ex-marine turned ‘security contractor’ Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is caught in a double cross. As she flees former colleagues and the police, she tells the guy whose car she has hijacked about the missions in Barcelona and Dublin that led to this point. Cue flashbacks and highly choreographed combat. This is Steven Soderbergh in action-thriller mode, but if you’re expecting a return to the heights of Out of Sight you’ll be disappointed. Haywire has some of the same energy, thanks to the stylish camerawork and a fine soundtrack, but the plot is flabby and lacks a convincing focus. Ex-martial arts champ Carano has a physical presence that lifts the fight scenes but her acting is leaden, particularly opposite the distinguished supporting cast (Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas). Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in New York is also a disappointment, failing to match the bittersweet humour of 2 Days in Paris. Separated from Jack, Marion (Delpy) now lives in New York with Mingus (Chris Rock). They are in love, but can their relationship survive a visit from her family? What follows is a dreary comedy about the French abroad, barely rescued by a late melancholy twist. Both released on April 11













Zhou Dong yu and Shawn Dou find love in ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’


If a western director were to make a romance set during China’s Cultural Revolution, he’d probably have a pair of lovers separated by Mao’s radical reshaping of society, reunited after countless hardships. Chinese director Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero) does exactly the opposite in Under the Hawthorn Tree. The Cultural Revolution brings the lovers together and obstructs their relationship no more than a moderately attentive chaperone. Student teacher Jing (Zhou Dongyu) has been sent to a mountain village for ‘reeducation’, a fate she accepts with enthusiasm. There she meets Sun (Shawn Dou), a young army geologist. The emotional charge is immediate, but Jing is reluctant to act on her feelings. Partly she is shy, partly she fears drawing attention to herself. Sun comes from a military family, well-placed in the regime, while Jing’s father has been imprisoned for his right-wing views. She has a chance to show she doesn’t share her

Cinemas in Brussels 16 Petite Rue des Bouchers 02.512.16.96 57 Gal du Centre 9 Rue Baron Horta 02.551.19.19 Pl Ste-Croix 02.641.10.20

20 Blvd du Centenaire 0900.00.555 21 Rue des Moines 02.537.69.54 3 Rue d’Arenberg 02.511.24.77 17 Ave de Hinnisdael 02.779.10.79

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Check out where films are screening and more TV and cinema highlights on


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Property, Classifieds & Jobs

Tight squeeze

HIGH EXPECTATIONS were exceeded in this complex project, which came with a big programme and a tiny site. The challenge of wedging a 250m² five-bedroom home with a two-car garage and professional facilities into a small, steeply sloped but beautifully situated parcel of land was met by Pierre Hebbelinck architects of Liège, who designed two distinct volumes, the smaller of which sits kitty-corner to the other, and by excavating space for the garage. Constructed of rough brick and glass, the building is rich in textural contrasts outside and in, where natural wood floors give warmth to sharply angled spaces. Although it towers over the rustic two-storey homes that are its neighbours on a narrow cobbled lane in Uccle, the house obstructs neither their sunlight nor their view.



CAPITAL LIFE Your city, your agenda Oscar Bonilla is a salsa teacher with the NuYorican Company How long have you been teaching salsa? I have always danced salsa. Growing up in Cali, Colombia, you cannot avoid it; salsa is everywhere. I moved to New York in 1976 and before I came to Belgium I was working at the World Trade Center but lost my job when the Towers collapsed. I came to Belgium in December 2002 and started teaching full-time.

What brought you to Belgium? My wife, Conny. I met her when she came to New York to dance salsa. She was the best friend of my cousin, who lives here in Brussels, and she wanted to know the best places to dance and buy music. It was kind of like a blind date. Do you teach salsa together? Not any more – we have a son and she takes care of him fulltime. But we run weekly classes in Etterbeek, Ixelles, SaintGilles and Leuven – she does the admin and I do all the teaching.

Who comes to your classes? Absolutely everybody. That’s the great thing about salsa – it’s open to everyone. Even people who are bad at dancing? Absolutely! You don’t have to be a good dancer to salsa. Besides, the music is fantastic, it is a good way to socialise, and for a lot of people in my classes, salsa is a way to let off steam. The spring semester of the NuYorican salsa classes starts on April 17. Call 0486.28.48.69 or email





Inside the Grand Eldorado screen at UGC De Brouckère


I have a very good friend who introduced me to Persian food and this restaurant is one of my favourites 1434 Chaussée de Wavre



The new season of our Tuesday salsa classes starts in Etterbeek De Maalbeek, 97 Rue du Cornet,






A great place to buy dance shoes. For salsa, women need a heel that’s not too high or thin. Men need leather shoes that don’t have too much grip 47A Rue Grétry


I’m taking my son to the Japanese pagoda and Chinese pavilion at the Royal Gardens in Laeken. There’s pottery inside and the last time we went he enjoyed it very much









A nice cinema with a central location and lots of films, but parking is difficult 38 Place De Brouckère

There isn’t a specific store for salsa music in Brussels but FNAC has a pretty good catalogue

There are no Colombian restaurants in Belgium so when I want a taste of home, I visit this store 52 Avenue Jean Volders




Brussels has a tradition of a salsa meetup on Sundays and for the last couple of years, La Tentation has been the place 28 Rue de Laeken

Oscar will be talking to TV Brussel’s Brussels International programme on Sunday, April 9. Tune in at 18.15, catch it every 30 minutes after 19.30 or watch it online at