Metrotainment: An eclectic repertoire

Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal will perform three contemporary pieces infused with joie de vivre.

Les Ballets Jazz_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Les Ballets Jazz_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the past 40 years, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal has prevailed as the most eclectic and accessible dance company in Canada. During the course of four decades, the troupe has reined in wildly talented choreographers from around the world to contribute to their vast repertoire. In early June, the company, now known as BJM Danse, will travel to Israel for the first time for a tour through the country’s metropolises.
BJM Danse will offer dance lovers in Beersheba, Haifa and Tel Aviv an opportunity to take in their newest roster of work. The program is composed of three pieces – Zip Zap Zoom and Locked Up Laura by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Les Chambres des Jacques by Aszure Barton.
BJM Danse is a repertory company, meaning that almost every one of the pieces being performed in any season was the brainchild of a different artist. As such, Louis Robitaille, artistic director of the troupe, is always on the lookout for new talent. In a recent interview, he explained how he knows who will be his next guest choreographer. “I fall in love,” he laughed. “It’s something that is very visceral, I believe. It’s something that is like love, having a flash of something. Like goose bumps or butterflies.”
Unlike many repertory companies in the US and Europe, BJM Danse works with choreographers who are not yet so-called household names. “We are looking for the new generation, for people who already made their way and are already known in the dance community but didn’t reach the international standard of artists like Ohad Naharin, Jiri Kylian, Matts Ek or Nacho Duato. We are trying to find the creator just before everything explodes. This is our duty,” he explained.
Though it would like to extend a more generous hand to its collaborating artists, BJM Danse is limited in the amount of time it can allot for each choreographer’s work. “We are able to do 45 minutes of new material each year,” he said. As a result, almost all performances of BJM Danse are comprised of several short pieces.
Robitaille has been at the helm of BJM Danse for 14 years. Prior to his appointment in his current role, he enjoyed a stunning career as a dancer. During his stint as a company member in BJM Danse, Robitaille came to be known for his dashing good looks and his shock of blond hair. Since taking over, Robitaille has mastered a gut renovation of the troupe’s image. Whereas 20 years ago BJM’s work was centered on jazz dance and showy numbers, nowadays the company is the pinnacle of contemporary movement. Though Robitaille was the one to demand a departure from the old ways, his respect for the heritage of BJM is palpable.
“When people mention change, I always say that it wasn’t a change but an evolution, which is quite different. Changing means denying everything from the past, giving a new direction, which is not necessarily what I tried to do. My mission was to bring the company and keep it as something very current and very contemporary, that the company would be a reflection, or a mirror, of what is done in dance creation today while respecting the past and the personality and character of the company. Better talk about evolution than change,” he said.
Though the artistic thread tying the repertoire together has morphed into something more cutting-edge, accessibility is still at the heart of BJM Danse’s philosophy. “We are not an intellectual company or an avant-garde group. Our work is not dark or depressing. It’s the opposite. Our performances are about joy, feeling and energy, to be open to the world. We are very harmonious,” asserted Robitaille.
BJM Danse will perform on June 3 at the Beersheba Performing Arts Center, on June 4 at the Haifa Auditorium, and on June 5-7 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. For more information, visit