27 - 28 May, 8 p.m. and 29 May, 6 p.m.
Le Sacre du Printemps (2009, 33’) [Italian premiere]
concept and choreography by Stijn Celis
music by Igor Stravinskij
costumes Catherine Vœffray
lighting Marc Parent
Bella Figura (1995, 30’)
concept and choreography Jirí Kylián
music by Lukas Foss, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Alessandro Marcello, Antonio Vivaldi, Giuseppe Torelli
stage sets Jirí Kylián - costumes Joke Visser
lighting Tom Bevoort - technical supervision and lighting Kees Tjebbes
Six Dances (1986, 15’)
concept and choreography Jirí Kylián
music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sechs Deutsche Tänze, KV 571
stage sets Jirí Kylián
costumes Joke Visser
lighting Joop Caboort
technical supervision and lighting Kees Tjebbes
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal
Rachel Rufer, Callye A. Robinson, Hervé Courtain, Jeremy Raia, Emilie Durville, Lénaïg Guégan, Robin Mathes, Vanesa G.R. Montoya, Isabelle Paquette, Edi Blloshmi, Jean-Sébastien Couture, Robert Deskins, Jérémy Galdeano, Marcin Kaczorowski, Guillaume Pruneau, Raul Salamanca, Marie-Ève Lapointe, Marisa Pauloni, Alisia Pobega, Mathieu Rouvière, André Silva, Xuan Cheng, Emma Garau Cima, Sarah Gibson, Graziella Lorriaux, Thaïs Martinez Fraga, Bryna Catherine Pascoe, Aline Schürger, Annie Shreffler, Dario Giuseppe Dinuzzi, Russell Lepley, Ye Li, Kenji Matsuyama Ribeiro, Karell Williams
produced by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal
with the support of the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, Canada Council for the Arts, Conseil des arts de Montréal
A survey of Canadian and Quebecois dance could not but include one of the most important companies of classical and contemporary dance, with its 33 excellent dancers, which has in the past given us such leading international lights as Edouard Lock and Ginette Laurin. This company is Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, founded in 1957 by Ludmilla Chiriaeff and today directed by the Macedonian Gradimir Pankov, former artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater, of the Ballet National of Finland, the Culleberg Ballet and the Ballet du Grand Théâtre of Geneva.
In Venice and for the Biennale, the Canadian company will be performing a triptych of “super-classics”: Le sacre du printemps, a mainstay of 20th-century dance re-interpreted by the Belgian choreographer, Stijn Celis; Bella figura and Six Dances, two masterpieces from the repertoire of the great Czech choreographer, Jirí Kylián, winner of the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement in 2008.
Having become a legend ever since its first performance in Paris (1913), as scandalous as it was revolutionary, under the aegis of Sergei Diaghilev’s “Ballets Russes” and the choreography of Vaslav Nijinsky, Le sacre du printemps has become a milestone in 20th-century dance that never ceases to inspire the greatest choreographers: Maurice Béjart, Pina Bausch, Mats Ek, Marie Chouinard, Angelin Preljocaj and Saburo Teshigawara are just some of those who have tackled this classic.
Of the original pagan celebratory ritual for the spring in which a virgin is sacrificed for group cohesion, Celis – who had earlier tackled Le sacre in the version for two pianos – stresses the aspect of exclusion and considers the sacrifice as being equivalent to an act of rebellion, of rejection against the uniformity demanded by society. Another aspect underlined by Celis is the male/female polarity, which he does not interpret in terms of a conflict but in terms of complementarity and complicity. In the seven pictures making up his version, Celis makes us of the oppositions between tension and relaxation, defence and abandonment, light and shadow, slowness and speed. “I was on the lookout for a gesture that would not be too awkward, to translate the cyclical dimension of the work and of life. We have worked a lot on the awareness and consciousness of breathing and the weight of the body, two elements that well show the difference between men and women” Le sacre du printemps (2009) is Celis’s third creation for Les Grands Ballets, after Noces (2002) and Cinderella (2003).
Among the many works by Jirí Kylián to have entered the repertoires of companies throughout the world, Bella figura and Six Dances, respectively of 1995 and of 1986, are two little gems that both draw inspiration from the 18th-century world and music – Pergolesi, Marcello, Mozart – and with all the charge of intelligence, irony, seductiveness and flirtation this conjures up.
For Kylián, Bella Figura takes place at the limit between dream and reality: “When does the act begin? When we are born, or when the curtain is raised? Does it all end when we walk off stage or does it never end? What is a masquerade? The clothes we wear on the street or a stage costume? Between so-called art and artificiality, between the realities of life and fantasy: these twilight zone create a tension that interests me. It’s like standong on the edge of a dream…”
Tracing out the title from the eponymous music by Mozart, the Czech choreographer speaks about his Six Dances: “I found it impossible to simply create different dance numbers that merely reflected the composer’s humour and musical brilliance. Instead, I have set up six seemingly nonsensical acts that are clearly oblivious to their sorroundings. These are dwarfed in the face of the ever-present troubles of the world, which most of us for some unspecified reasons carry in our souls. Although the entertaining quality of Mozart’s Sechs Tänze enjoys widespread popularity, it should not be regarded solely as burlesque. Instead, its humour ought to serve as a vehicle for pointing up our relative values. Mozart’s ability to react to difficulties circumstances with a self-perservational outburst of nonsensical poetry is well known”.
Stijn Celis (1964) - Born of a Belgian father and mother born in Mauritius, Stijn Celis lived in Zaire (today’s Congo) until 1972. When his family returned to Belgium, he began his education at the Koninglijke Ballet School in Antwerp. In 1982, he joined the Royal Ballet of Flanders under the direction of Valery Panov, and in 1986 was with the Zurich Ballet under Paula Lansley. He subsequently entered the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, which was then directed by Gradimir Pankov, and remained here until 1996. It was in these years that he began producing his own choreography, and in 1997 Mats Ek asked him to work on the inaugural show for the Holland Festival. Between 1996 and 1997, he was a member of the Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm, for which he created two works: Ubiloz and Fox. In 1998, Celis abandoned his activity as a dancer, returned to Antwerp and studied scenography, but also continued to produce choreography: for the Ballet Gulbenkian, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Cullberg Ballet and the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in New York.