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Les Grands Ballets Canadiens Hard at Work

by Archives October 16, 2007

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens dancers are hard at work, readying themselves for yet another exciting season that is sure to be as triumphant as the last.
Helmed by artistic director Gradimir Pankov, the company recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, a milestone in the Quebec dance world. The upcoming season promises to be one of the company’s finest, and it begins in great style with Cinderella (The Lost Shoe), a contemporary version of the romantic ballet, choreographed by one of Pankov’s favorite creators, Stijn Celis.
Audiences who are expecting a classical piece will be pleasantly surprised, since Celis’ version is a re-imagining of the famous fairy tale. No pointed shoes or tutus in sight, the ballet is a refreshing piece as well as an instance of Pankov’s artistic vision. Having taken the reigns of the Les Grands Ballets in 1999, Pankov lifted the company’s repertory to new heights and during that process won the hearts of audiences in Montreal and around the world.
When choosing the works that will be performed by his dancers, Pankov keeps a few things in mind, one of those being balance. Putting together a season is no easy task, but the company’s artistic director always tries to balance the audience with the pieces being performed. “I realized in my second year that the public likes to start the season with full-evening ballets such as Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella and Carmen and that gives me a chance to start taking some risks later in the season, balancing classical pieces with contemporary work.”
Pankov admits however that taking risks hasn’t always paid off for the company, having lost a significant portion of its audience in his beginnings with Les Grands Ballets. In view of this fact, Pankov has learned to please Montrealers without deviating from his artistic vision, something that has paid off tremendously: the dancers have been performing before full houses both in Montreal and abroad.
Pankov also looks to introduce audiences to creators of innovative pieces that will both fascinate and educate les Grands Ballets’ audience. “Knowing so many choreographers in Europe, I don’t have a lot of difficulty when it comes to choosing the right people for my company, which really explains the success we’ve had.”
Company favorites such as Ohad Naharin, Stijn Celis, Mats Ek and Jiri Kylian have no doubt contributed to les Grands Ballets tremendous success under the direction of Pankov.
Despite the acclaim, Pankov would like to see his dancers work in a more open and inviting space. The Grands Ballets’ aging studios are situated in the Plateau, and the company is hoping to move to a newer facility in the near future. “I have wished that we move into better studios and we have been talking to the government and the city of Montreal about that. I believe we are the only company in Canada who works under these circumstances and I think we deserve a better place to work in.”
It looks as though Pankov’s wishes will come true. The GBCM have plans to build a modern space close to Place-des-Arts, which Pankov and his dancers are extremely deserving of. Working day and night in order to prepare for the trying weeks ahead of them, members of les Grands Ballets are sure to welcome a more lively area for creation.
Until then, the company will remain at their studios and offices on Rivard Street where they continue to produce some of the most refreshing dances today. Pankov and his dancers are currently putting the finishing touches on Celis’ work, which opens on Thursday.
After Cinderella, the Grands Ballets will perform the annual holiday classic The Nutcracker before delving back into contemporary territory with a new creation from Ohad Naharin. The Houston Ballet will present the classical ballet Madame Butterfly after which the Grands Ballets will close out their season with a triple bill soiree of Balanchine. Dance lovers and newcomers to the scene won’t want to miss a step.

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