There are better ways to get intimate with the dancers of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens than buying their used pointe shoes during Nutcracker season. The best opportunity comes once every two years, and doesn’t cost a dime. The Dancers’ Choreographic Workshop is a free biennial show at Cinquième Salle conceived entirely by Les Grands company members—from lighting and sound to the souvenir T-shirts, and putting front and centre their own choreographic creations.
Curious to glimpse behind the guarded smiles printed in your Place des Arts program? This year, 10 company dancers reveal themselves by putting on the hat of choreographer: Hervé Courtain, Jean-Sébastien Couture, Dario Giuseppe Dinuzzi, Émilie Durville, Jérémy Galdeano, Russell Lepley, Vanesa G. R. Montoya, Marisa Pauloni, Annie Shreffler and Karell Williams.
Given carte blanche, the budding choreographers have cast their fellow dancers—a handful of them brand new to the company—in works ranging from 3 to 15 minutes each, from intimate solos to sultry tango trios to a big tribal romp for 15. If musical selections are any indication of the diversity of the program, consider a mixtape that includes, among others, Argentinean folk songstress Mercedes Sosa, the freak pop duo CocoRosie, modern classical composer Samuel Barber and the music of Tetris and Zelda—yes, as in Nintendo 64. Expect a surprising smorgasbord of movement styles from artists whose day job it is to inhabit and give expression to so many.
In between rehearsals for Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Romeo and Juliet, to be presented at Théâtre de Maisonneuve in October, and Stijn Celis’ Les Noces, which the company will perform at New York’s Fall for Dance Festival in two weeks, the dancers have been scheduling in studio time with each other and partnering with members of the company’s artistic and administrative staff to produce—on stage and from behind the scenes—every aspect of their 3-night showcase. Already the versatile performers of a wide company repertory, and now choreographers, press agents, production managers and technical crew, the company members of Les Grands stake their claim to the entire creative process—an emboldening project worthy of support.
The workshop (one wonders why it is not an annual event) is a wise initiative on the part of Artistic Director Gradimir Pankov, who seems to understand that the longevity of company’s name also resides in graduating its members into the larger world of dance with skills and confidence as artists, as collaborators, and not simply as muses.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s Dancers’ Choreographic Workshop runs today to Saturday, at 8pm, at the Cinquième Salle of Place des Arts. Tickets are free but will go fast. There is a limit of 4 per person, and donations are welcome. Reservations at 514-842-2112 or in person at the box office. For details, go to Choreographic Workshop.