Spring is always an exciting time. All the big companies reveal their upcoming season, filling us with anticipation for the year to come. This year, the Grands Ballets’ season launch goes beyond the usual excitement of revealing the shows that will fill our cultural calendars for 2016-2017. They have not one, not two, but a whole slew of news and events that really up the ante. Tuesday night at the Theatre Maisonneuve dancers, fans, and media all gathered to finally get the answers to our burning questions: what shows can we look forward to? When will the Wilder building be ready? And, the real nail biter, who will be appointed as the new artistic director?
Gradimir Pankov has been at the heart of Les Grands Ballets’ evolution for the last 18 years. He announced his retirement last summer, and his replacement has been a tightly held secret ever since. As of this coming July 1st, Gradimir will share his position with the newly elected, but the direction of his final season has been specially selected by him alone. 2016-2017 will be full of all of Gradimir’s favourite things, which happen to be Les Grands fan favourites as well. It’s no surprise his highlights for the company match ours; Gradimir’s taste and choices over the last two decades have helped grow audiences and the Le Grands’ reputation world wide.
The specially selected season celebrates not only Gradimir’s farewell, but also the 60 year anniversary of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. At the same time, Montreal will be celebrating it’s 375th anniversary, and Canada is turning 150. You won’t even need to mark your calendars – the festivities will be ongoing everywhere! Furthermore, the long awaited Wilder Building will open it’s doors in 2017, welcoming it’s patient tenants: Les Grand Ballets, l’École de danse contemporaine de Montréal, Tangente and l’Agora de la danse. The National Center for Dance Therapy will also open in 2017 in the same building, which is among my highlight announcements of the night. As a dancer, I know the benefits of dance physically, mentally, emotionally, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of this Center.
By now you’ve likely seen the ballerina-pink new season program, but in case you haven’t, it is full of great stuff. Les Grands will start the season with some classics: Romeo and Juliet by Jean-Christophe Maillot and The Nutcracker by Fenand Nault. In 2017, the Perm Opera Ballet will be in Montreal for the first time, performing Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s Swan Lake. Back to a Les Grands staple, Ohad Naharin’s Minus One is followed by the National Ballet of Ukraine and Victor Yaremenko’s The Marriage of Figaro. A triple bill by Jiri Kylian, Falling Angels and Evening Songs, and Stephan Thoss, Searching for Home, closes this epic season. Five out of these six shows will be accompanied live by the Grands Ballets’ orchestra. Are you excited yet?
I can’t hold the suspense any longer. What we all wanted to know most was who will be taking the lead of the company? With a long list of credentials including schooling at the Bolshoi, premier danseur in Stuttgart and artistic director for the West Australian Ballet, Les Grands Ballet’s new artistic director is Ivan Cavallari. He even speaks French! Poised, charming, and evidently up for the task of the major year ahead, I’m certain he will be a great fit here in Montreal.