Ivan Cavallari to lead Les Grands Ballets Canadiens

April 6, 2016


MONTREAL, QUE.: APRIL 5, 2016– Ivan Cavallari named artistic director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Cavallari is seen as he gives an interview in Montreal on Tuesday April 5, 2016. (Allen McInnis / MONTREAL GAZETTE)

Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

Italian-born Ivan Cavallari, a former principal dancer with Stuttgart Ballet who has led ballet companies in Australia and France, has been named the new artistic director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.

The announcement of the 52-year-old’s appointment came on Tuesday at a news conference during which Gradimir Pankov revealed details of Les Grands’ 2016-2017 season, his 18th and last as artistic director.

Since 2013, Cavallari has worked in Alsace, France, as artistic director of the Ballet de l’Opéra national du Rhin, a 33-member company roughly the same size as Les Grands.

But he sees an immense difference between the two dance troupes.

“In Alsace, the ballet is attached to the opera, so the planning and money is decided by the opera,” noted Cavallari. “Everything is much more like in a cage.”

Now at the helm of Les Grands “there is no cage,” he said. “I have artistic freedom.”

Prior to his stint in Alsace, Cavallari led the West Australian Ballet from 2007 to 2012. At both companies, he staged his own choreographies and enlarged the company repertories with works by European choreographers like Paul Lightfoot, Petr Zuska, Uwe Scholz, Stephan Thoss and Marco Goecke.

Cavallari originally trained at the La Scala Ballet School, then as a scholarship student for two years at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. In 1986, he became a principal dancer for the Stuttgart Ballet and performed main roles in works by such major choreographers as William Forsythe, Ji?í Kylián and John Cranko. Cavallari has staged Cranko works for companies across Europe.

Les Grands’ six-member selection committee’s decision to choose Cavallari seems to reflect a desire to continue Pankov’s emphasis on high-quality European works.

Cavallari will assume direction of Les Grands in July. To ensure a smooth transition, Pankov will remain as adviser until June 2017, when Les Grands are scheduled to move downtown to their new Espace danse studios in the Wilder Building on Bleury St.

Pankov’s last season includes three revival works — Jean-Christophe Maillot’s fresh take on Romeo and Juliet, Ohad Naharin’s crowd-pleasing Minus One, and Stephan Thoss’s intense Searching For Home. The Thoss piece is part of a triple bill that includes two works by Kylián: Falling Angels, with music by Steve Reich, and Evening Songs, music by Dvo?ák.

As part of their 60th anniversary season, Les Grands have invited two major guest companies to stage full-length story ballets with live orchestra in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.

In February 2017, the 60-member Perm Ballet will stage Natalia Makarova’s version of Swan Lake. Perm Ballet has a solid reputation as one of Russia’s leading companies. Although the company has never performed in North America, 10 of the company’s stars are coming to Montreal this month to perform an evening of classical duets and a neoclassical ensemble piece at the Outremont Theatre, April 22 and 23. Among those performing are Inna Bilash and Nikita Chetverikov, who are celebrated for dancing the lead roles in Swan Lake and who will likely perform those roles here next year.

In April 2017, the Kiev Ballet returns to Montreal for the third time in an adaptation of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro choreographed by Victor Yeremenko, a former star dancer. After splendid performances here of Swan Lake and La Bayadère, the Kievans can be counted on to provide some lively classical dancing.

And the Nutcracker will be back in December with Les Grands performing Fernand Nault’s familiar but always welcome version of the Tchaikovsky classic.