Montreal Dancing in Memory of Leonard Cohen

Last year the world lost a remarkable poet and musician. Montreal-born Leonard Cohen decks the halls of fame of Rock and Roll, Canadian music and Canadian Songwriters, for his opus of work spanning over sixty years. His folksy sound is especially resonant through his lyrics, which speak to love, loss, religion and political unrest. For their upcoming 2017-2018 seasons, two landmark Montreal dance companies will pay homage to him with a new work created to his music, and a gala danced in his honor. Dance Me, by the Ballets Jazz de Montreal, will premiere in December, and Les Grands Ballets will hold special gala performances, Soirée des Étoiles, the following June under the theme Dance Me to the End of Love, both companies taking their title inspiration from Cohen’s 1984 song.



Leonard Cohen spent his early life growing up in Westmount and writing some of his most revered work while living on The Main in Montreal’s Little Portugal. He was an active member of Montreal’s Jewish community throughout his life and lies to rest today in a cemetery on Mount-Royal. Having such a remarkable man come from my hometown instills, in me at least, such a love for all the things that make this city what it is. Its diversity, religious history, and worldliness, and its welcoming, outspoken way, are characteristics Montrealers absorb into themselves, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by the people around the world who we meet. Cohen is in many ways an archetypical Montreal Anglo Jew, one with an incredible talent to communicate and move people with his words.




The spark for the Ballets Jazz’s project dates back to 2014. When Cohen passed in November of last year, there was question of cancelling the project altogether, which was meant to honor the living man. Having received Cohen’s encouragement and support from day one though, it has gone forward and will premiere on December 5th at the Place des Arts. Dance Me is part of the official programming of the 375th anniversary of Montreal, as well as of the 20th anniversary Danse Danse series, the full programming for which will be announced next month. Choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Andonis Foniadakis and Ihsan Rustem join BJM Artistic Director Louis Robitaille to create this new work, which will feature not only Cohen’s music, but also his visual and literary work. Dance Me will be themed to the seasons, their cycle of life, with a very Montreal touch of an additional fifth season, the locally-loved Indian summer.




For Les Grands Ballets, Cohen’s music will be the leading thread to a night bringing together international stars and the best of Montreal for the Soirée des Étoiles. As the closing show of Ivan Cavallari’s first season as Artistic Director of Les Grands, it will be a milestone anchoring his move to and adoption of our city, as well as the signing off on the company’s renewed mission to bring the dancers unique talents to the foreground. Leonard Cohen was an ambassador on the international stage, a position to admire and aim for. The Petit Chanteurs du Mont-Royal will perform Cohen’s pieces while the dancers push their limits with a series of popular excerpts, celebrating talent under the theme of one of Montreal’s greats.


Of all the things Leonard Cohen dabbled in, dancing was not one of them. Yet, his work has inspired movement in so many ways, both literal and figurative. When it comes to Montrealers recognizing one of their own, as is the case here, it is the similarities in purpose and passion that unite these artists.


Leonard Cohen
Sasha Onyshchenko / Kravetz Photographics

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