An internationally renowned repertory company founded in 1972, BJM – Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal has been constantly evolving in dynamic fashion ever since. Louis Robitaille has been artistic director of the company since 1998, and over the years, BJM has presented more than 2,500 performances in 68 countries all over the world, reaching a total audience of more than 2.8 million. With its troupe of international calibre dancers pursuing the vision and mission of the company, BJM also collaborates with celebrated dance professionals and contemporary ballet artists. A major force on the Montreal cultural scene, BJM remains one of the most prolific dance companies in North America.
Leonard Norman Cohen, poet, novelist, singer, songwriter (born September 21, 1934 in Montréal, QC; died November 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California).
Leonard Cohen was one of the most iconic Canadian artists of the 20th century. A sage, mystic, bohemian and romantic, he built an acclaimed body of literary work and a revered career in pop music. In his poetry, novels and music, he constantly probed the human condition, exploring themes of love, loss, death and his commitment to his art. As a poetic and unlikely pop star, his narrow-ranged, gruff voice, which deepened and darkened with age, and his reliance on simple, singsong melodies were complimented by the intense imagery and depth of his lyrics.
A Companion of the Order of Canada, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the US Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Folk Music Walk of Fame. He also received the Glenn Gould Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, eight JUNO Awards, a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous other honours.
The dancer and artistic director Louis Robitaille was born in Montreal in 1957.
Louis Robitaille was inspired to pursue a career in dance after being discovered at a high school dance performance in 1973. His natural talent attracted the attention of his physical education teacher Peter George, who was also a dancer with the Ballets Jazz de Montréal. Thanks to Mr. George’s intervention, he received a scholarship enabling him to take part in the BJM summer training program. In 1974 at the age of 16, Louis Robitaille joined the Compagnie de danse Eddy Toussaint (later known as the Ballet de Montréal), where he performed and studied dance under the tutelage of a wide range of ballet masters.
His incarnation of the legendary character Alexis le Trotteur turned him into an icon of Quebec dance. At the initiative of Madam Chiriaeff, whom he viewed as a mentor, the young dancer was recruited by the Grands Ballets Canadiens in 1978. As part of the GBC’s 20th anniversary program, he was chosen for the title role in Lucas Hoving’s modern dance classic Icarus.
In the early 1980s, he was invited on several occasions to perform with the Ballets de l’Opéra in Avignon, France. It was there that he had a significant encounter with Rudy Bryans. This principal dancer with the Ballet National de Marseille (a company directed by Roland Petit) made a big impact on Louis Robitaille, as he became a source of inspiration and a guide who greatly influenced his dancing and his artistic path.
In 1984, he participated in the Helsinki International Ballet Competition with his partner Anik Bissonnette. They performed Eddy Toussaint’s Un simple moment, and won a gold medal for the choreographer. They were invited to perform at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy by its founder Gian Carlo Menotti, who proved to be a supportive presence. They also performed as guest artists at three festivals directed by Menotti in Italy, and at Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston as well as the Melbourne International Arts Festival in Australia, in addition to guest artist performances with the Ballet de Toulouse in France and a lot of galas around the world.
Louis Robitaille joined the Grands Ballets Canadiens as a principal dancer in 1989. Between 1990 and his departure in 1998, he added 35 roles to his repertoire in works by choreographers such as Balanchine, Dolin, Duato, Fokine, Forsythe, Kudelka, Kylián, Limon, Lock, Nault and Tudor.
In 1994, Louis Robitaille became artistic director of the Jeune Ballet du Québec, where he explored new dance forms. Encouraged by the response to his work, he established a small chamber ballet group, Bande à Part, and also founded Danse-Théâtre de Montréal.
Along with Karen Kain, Frank Augustyn, David Peregrine and Evelyn Hart, he was an outstanding dance artist of his generation. He continued to dance and was appointed artistic director of BJM in 1998, where he redefined the company’s artistic approach without abandoning its unique nature.
Louis Robitaille is the recipient of the Order of Canada, the Ordre national du Québec and the Jacqueline Lemieux Prize. He has received numerous grants from the Quebec Ministry of Culture, and he and his company were awarded the Prix Rideau Hommage in addition to the Montreal Arts Council’s Prix de reconnaissance.
Eric Jean is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most esteemed and outstanding stage directors of his generation. His appointment in 2004 as general and artistic director of Théâtre de Quat’Sous, and his ensuing success, are a reflection of the trust and confidence he has established in the theatre milieu, which quickly saw in him a bold, unique artist who has made a significant artistic contribution to Quebec theatre.
A prolific and inventive director and an occasional actor, he is greatly appreciated for his commitment to up-and-coming artists, both as a teacher and also at the professional level.
Where Eric Jean has made his mark and his reputation, however, is in his creative approach. Using structured improvisations as his point of departure, he also works in conjunction with the playwright and with the set design, gradually piecing together his stage plays. Striking examples of this, which he calls “writing as action”, are of course his renowned Hippocampe, written in collaboration with Pascal Brullemans, and his 2009 staging of Chambre(s), co‑written with Pascal Chevarie. Not only was Hippocampe the recipient of the 2003 Prix de la critique, but the director was also nominated for the prestigious Siminovitch Prize in 2004, one of five finalists.
Other notable productions were Corps étrangers/Cuerpos extranos (2005), a piece co-written with Pascal Brullemans and first created in Mexico before being presented in Quebec. Opium_37 (2009–2011) was written in collaboration with Catherine Léger, after which he staged Luc Tartar’s play for adolescents S’embrasent (2009–2017). This was followed by Le ventriloque (2012) by Larry Tremblay, Survivre (2013) by Olivier Kemeid, Testament by Vickie Gendreau (2014), Variations sur un temps by David Ives (2015) and Le Joker (2016) by Larry Tremblay.
Autumn 2016 marked the beginning of a new adventure for Eric Jean, as he resigned as artistic director of Théâtre de Quat’Sous in order to focus on directing, writing and filmmaking.
Andonis Foniadakis grew up in the city of Ierapetra, in the south part of the island of Crete, in Greece. He began his dance training with Niki Papadaki at the local dance school, in his hometown. From 1990 to 1992, he studied at the State Dance School of Athens and before his graduation he received the prestigious Maria Callas scholarship to continue his studies in Rudra Bejart Lausanne, in Switzerland until 1994.
As a dancer, Andonis has collaborated with Bejart Ballet Lausanne (1994–1996) under the direction of Maurice Bejart, Lyon Opera Ballet (1996–2002) under the direction of Yorgos Loukos, Saburo Teshigawara / Karas Co. (2004) under the direction of Saburo Teshigawara, as well as, with his own dance company “Apotosoma-Andonis Foniadakis”. During the years of his professional engagement with these companies he has performed choreographic works of Maguy Marin, Jiri Kilian, William Forsythe, Dominique Boivin, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, Maurice Bejart, Ohad Naharin, Frederic Flamand, Bill T Jones, Herve Robbe, Tero Saarinen, Lionel Hoche, Joachim Schlomer, John Jasperse and Saburo Teshigawara.
As a freelance choreographer, he has collaborated with The Royal New Zealand Ballet, Geneva Ballet Switzerland, Lyon Opera Ballet (France), Bern Ballet (Switzerland), Ballet de Lorraine (France) Luzern Ballet (Switzerland) Gauthier Dance Company (Germany), Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (Canada), Martha Graham Dance Company (USA), Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (USA), Aterballetto (Italy), Ballet du Rhin (France), Sydney Dance Company (Australia), Florence Ballet (Italy), National Dance Company of Wales (England), Dansgroep Amsterdam (Netherlands), Cia Sociedade Masculina Brazil Bale da Cidade of São Paulo (Brazil), Helsinki Dance Company (Finland), National Ballet of Greece, National Theater of Northern Greece, Greek National Theater, Codarts (Netherlands), Benjamin Millepied Dance Company (USA), Washington Ballet (USA), Bejart Ballet Lausanne (Switzerland), Ballet Junior Geneva (Switzerland), Hellenic Dance Company (Greece), CNSMD Lyon (France), Copenhagen International Dance Festival (Denmark).
He has been director of the Greek National Ballet for the 2016–2017 season and has programmed the 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 seasons. He is currently the resident choreographer of the Greek National Ballet.
Foniadakis has been commissioned to choreograph three operas: Castor et Pollux for Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Les boreades by Rameau for Opéra National du Rhin, and Il canto de la pelle by Claudio Ambrosini for the Grame Centre in Lyon.
He has collaborated as moving coordinator for the film NOAH by Darren Aronofsky. In 2012, he received the Danza and Danza Award for the “Best Choreographer 2012” in Italy, for the creation of Les Noces in Maggio Danza for the Florence Ballet.
He has also collaborated with Palais de Tokyo as Choreographic Curator for the exhibition Prec(ar)ious Collectives that took place in Athens, Greece, as a parallel event of the Documenta 14, in 2017.
In addition to creating and performing, Andonis teaches seminars based on his personal dance technique. He has been teaching in the State Dance School of Greece, DAN.C.CE studios and Baile de Barrio in Athens, DOCK11 in Berlin, CND and CNSMD in Lyon, Dansgroep Amsterdam, and Henny Jurriens.
The Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (1973) completed her dance education at the Royal Ballet School of Flanders in Belgium. After a 12 year-long dance career, where she danced as a soloist with the Scapino Ballet, she decided in 2003 to focus her energies solely on choreography. In that same year she was hailed “rising star of the Dutch dance scene” (NRC newspaper) and only seven years later the Temecula Performing Arts Examiner wrote: ”Ochoa is truly a masterful choreographer with an edge for what dance can and should be in this constantly changing industry”.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is an award-winning and sought-after choreographer who has created works for more than 40 companies around the world such as the Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, Dutch National Ballet, Djazzex, Ballet de Genève, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Gothenburg Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, BalletX, BJM-Danse Montreal, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Ballet National de Marseille, Saarbrucken Ballet, Jacoby & Pronk, Chemnitzer Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, Morphoses Wheeldon Company, Whim W’Him, IncolBallet de Colombia, Finnish National Ballet, Compania Nacional de Danza Madrid, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Scottish Ballet, The Washington Ballet, Ballet Nacional Dominicano, Ballet Saarbrucken, Augsburg Ballet, Ballet Austin, Atlanta Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet, Ballet Moscow, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, West Australian Ballet, Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, Ballet Nacional Chileno, Ballet Staatstheater am Gartnerplatz Munchen, Ballet Manila, Daniil Simkin Intensio Project, Cincinnati Ballet, Silicon Valley Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, English National Ballet, Ballet Black and New York City Ballet.
Ms. Lopez Ochoa is a versatile choreographer who also creates for theatre, opera, musical theatre and for fashion events such as for the celebrated Dutch fashion designers Viktor & Rolf’s project in the Van Gogh Museum. She belongs to the Theatre-Dance collective “De Fantasten” with whom she co-directed successfully five full-length productions and which have been performed in numerous theatres and festivals throughout the Netherlands.
In 2009, she created Zip Zap Zoom for BJM, which is included in the 10 best dance moments of the year by the Pittsburg Gazette, Boston Globe and the Montreal Gazette, and was included in the list of 10 best dance highlights of the year in San Diego and Chicago.
Her work was several times awarded. In 2016, Broken Wings, created for English National Ballet was nominated for a National UK Dance Award in the category Best Classical Premiere. In 2015, Sombrerisimo, created for Ballet Hispanico, was awarded with the Villanueva Award in Cuba. In 2012, A Streetcar Named Desire was nominated for a prestigious Olivier Award (UK), received the Best Classical Choreography by the Circle of Critics of the National Dance Award (UK) and was awarded Best Dance Production 2012, by the South-Bank Sky Arts Awards. In 2007, Annabelle was selected to work with the prestigious New York City Ballet Choreographic Institute. In 2002, Replay received the first prize and the public’s prize at the Bornem Choreographers Competition and in 2001, Clair/Obscur received the third prize at the Hannover choreographer’s competition.
Ihsan Rustem was born in London, where he trained at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance.
Rustem began his professional career at the age of 17, joining Matthew Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures, followed by engagements with the Ballett Theater Munich (Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz) and Introdans in the Netherlands. In 2007, Ihsan moved to Switzerland as a Soloist with the Bern Ballet and later a founding member of the Tanz Luzerner Theater.
During this period, Ihsan originated roles in creations by Wayne McGregor, Hofesh Shechter, Alexander Ekman, Matthew Bourne, Stijn Celis, Patrick Delcroix, Cayetano Soto, Felix Landerer, Guilherme Bothello and worked with choreographers Mats Ek, Jiří Kylián, Paul Lightfoot / Sol Leon, Hans van Manen and William Forsythe, amongst others.
In 2010, Sarah Slipper invited Ihsan to Portland, Oregon (USA), where he created State of Matter for the Northwest Dance Project (NWDP), a piece which went on to win both the 2012 Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest and the Audience Choice Award at the 25th International Competition for Choreographers Hannover. In 2015, Rustem was appointed Resident Choreographer for NWDP and continues in this position today. He is the former Artistic Director of the Dance Art Studio Balletschule Luzern, Switzerland, and currently serves as its Artistic Advisor.
Rustem was the 2014 recipient of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s International Commissioning Project and a winner of Whim W’him’s inaugural Choreographic Shindig in 2015. His sixth original work for the NW Dance Project, Carmen, won Dance Magazine’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Collaboration. He was a featured choreographer for Russia’s TV show The Bolshoi Ballet.
To date, Rustem has created works for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago 2 (USA), Northwest Dance Project (USA), Istanbul State Ballet MDT (Turkey), Tanz Luzerner Theater (CH), Kazan State Opera and Ballet (Russia), Whim W’Him (USA), Ballet Regensburg (Germany), Ballett Koblenz (Germany), Würzburg Ballett (Germany), Salt Contemporary Dance Company (USA), National Youth Dance Company (UK), Aksanat Istanbul, Cinevox (CH) and the Palucca Schule Dresden (Germany).