Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal Set for Wallis Annenberg Center This Weekend

"Harry" by Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal. Photo by Gregory Batardon.

Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (Louis Robitaille, Artistic Director) will perform at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in the Bram Goldsmith Theater tonight and tomorrow, January 10 and 11, 2014.

The program includes Closer choreographed by Benjamin Millepied to MAD RUSH by Philip Glass; Night Box choreographed by Wen Wei Wang to music of Amute, Olaf Bender, The Steals & Grafiti, Giorgio Magnanensi, Max Richter, Paul Rogers, Victoria R. Senking; and Harry choreographed by Barak Marshall to music of Tommy Dorsey, Taraf Ionel Budisteanu, Balkan Beat Box, The Andrews Sisters, Anatol Stefanet, Dejan Petrovic, Sidney Bechet, Warsaw Village Band, The Hungarian Quartet, Goran Bregovic, Maria Callas, and Wayne Newton.

An internationally renowned repertory company, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (BJM) has continued to grow with all the energy and spirit of exploration for which it has been known since its birth in 1972. Thanks to the enduring faith of Geneviève Salbaing and co-founders Eva Von Gencsy and Eddy Toussaint, this vitality has made its mark through the years. Since Louis Robitaille was nominated Artistic Director in 1998, BJM is now, more than ever, in tune with the times. While preserving the essence of the company, BJM works today with some of the most prestigious figures in the world of dance and contemporary ballet.

Allowing the full expression of each dancer's identity is crucial to BJM's distinctive style. These high level, eclectic artists perfectly represent the company's spirit. Thanks to their unique personalities and the quality of their performances, they invariably captivate audiences and critics across the world. By promoting our core values such as openness and community, Louis Robitaille has transformed BJM into a genuine research laboratory. The dancers are given the opportunity to develop alongside internationally renowned creators who are regularly invited to share their innovative ideas in the form of creative residencies. BJM's successes stem from an exceptional chemistry where every creation is the result of a unique and energizing meeting between choreographer and dancer.

Faced with the tensions and uncertainties in today's world, BJM has chosen to remain faithful to an aesthetic form of dance, which can also have an uplifting effect on the soul. This has earned it the title « feel good company », often employed by both the public and the media. Displaying its radiant and expressive style, BJM explores the creative side of contemporary trends, yet is still firmly committed to classical aesthetics.

BJM has recently collaborated with such well-known figures of contemporary dance as Crystal Pite (Vancouver), Rodrigo Pederneiras (of the Brazilian company Grupo Corpo), Mauro Bigonzetti (of the Italian company Aterballeto), Aszure Barton (New York), Cayetano Soto (Spain), Wen Wei Wang (Canada), Barak Marshall (Israel and USA) and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (Amsterdam). With such prestigious names gracing its repertoire, BJM offers a mutually enhancing experience based on both openness and stylistic diversity.

About the program:

Closer -- Set to composer Philip Glass's MAD RUSH, the duet Closer was created in 2006 for Céline Cassone and Sébastien Marcovici (principal dancer with the New York City Ballet) and presented at the Maison de la Danse in Lyon, France. For Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, the duet will be performed by Céline Cassone and Alexander Hille. Performed and acclaimed on several world stages, Closer is a voluptuous and vibrant exchange, imbued with an intense yet simple sensuality, that of the tension between two bodies. Over the course of twenty minutes, Céline is carried, pulled and lifted with movements of crystalline beauty and delicacy, rousing the sentiments of the audience, who are transported into the couple's passionate relationship. Enhancing the work is a live performance of Glass's piano piece, MAD RUSH, reverberating throughout the hall, evoking the purity of the dancers' emotions.

Night Box -- In creating this new piece for Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, Wen Wei Wang was inspired by urban life, especially as it unfolds at night. Evoking the city through sounds, rhythms, music and an incessant blinking of lights, Night Box is a high-voltage work in which love, loss, sexuality and joy are intertwined. In a state of perpetual movement, it combines contemporary ballet with street dance in alternating sequences for group, trio, duet and solo. Adopting an approach in which lighting plays a central role, Wen Wei Wang recreates the full spectrum of the city at night: its private spaces, clubs, streets. Against a backdrop of darkness, these diverse spaces become bathed in light. The choreographer worked with the Montreal design duo UNTTLD to create a new and refreshing style inspired by urban street life.

"This work is about people and everyday life through body language, energy, relationships and emotions, reflecting the world in which we are living. Many thanks to the dancers for their collaborative spirit and their generous contribution to the concept."

Harry -- For this new creation, made-to-measure for the Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal dancers, the Israeli-American choreographer Barak Marshall was inspired by the inner battles we all wage. "Life is a constant struggle," he says, "in which we are continually faced with conflicts with regard to culture, gender, species." Between men and women, in particular, compromises must be made to achieve a balance. This piece revolves around the character of Harry, who struggles to overcome forces both physical and existential. Teeming with energy, the work underscores a recurrent theme in human interactions: conflicts and our ability to overcome them. Set to a score combining jazz, Israeli folksongs and traditional music, this new opus is imbued with hope and humour, alternating group sequences, trios and duets in a fabulous extravaganza of dance.

From BJM Artistic Director -- LOUIS ROBITAILLE: "More than simple entertainment, artistic choices can carry an alternative message. By allowing the best in us to bloom, we have the power to change. Transform the way we see ourselves and others ... a profound desire for harmony linked to the strong conviction that happiness is indeed at arm's reach, as well as a thirst for the exotic and openness to the cultures of others, these are the ingredients that have guided my steps in the elaboration of the great adventure that is dance.

"Two events have had a decisive influence on my professional career: my discovery of Maurice Béjart's Messe pour un temps présent and my encounter with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal in 1972.

"Working for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens shaped my artistic itinerary. I have very fond memories of the many inspiring and exceptional encounters I had there. Choreographers such as James Kudelka, Nacho Duato, Ji?í Kylián, Hans Van Manen or Edouard Lock inspired me to seek through perseverance and true effort the satisfaction of a job well done. The many people I've met along the way, whether they were choreographers, managers or creators, helped me articulate a personal approach to performance and dance which continues to guide me to this day.

"The projects I carried out afterwards with Bande-à-Part - which later became Danse-Théâtre de Montréal -paved the way for new challenges and new responsibilities. I learned how to engender and uphold an artistic vision, while also managing resources.

"The transition from dancing to directing the artistic activities of a company was one of the biggest challenges I have had to face. While the dancer has to focus on his own career, the artistic director must learn how to develop and nurture such qualities as empathy, respect and altruism.

"Today, at BJM, I look to the future; continually repositioning the company, while also innovating and acquiring new knowledge. Our raison d'être is to generate a unique encounter with the public. Through BJM, I want to embellish everyday life, bring happiness where it is most needed. When we feel a certain magic at the end of a performance, I know that this kind of encounter has truly taken place."

About The Wallis: Located in the heart of Beverly Hills, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis) transforms a Beverly Hills city block, facing Santa Monica Boulevard, between Crescent and Canon Drives, into a vibrant new cultural destination with two distinct, elegant buildings: the historic 1933 Italianate-style Beverly Hills Post Office and the new, contemporary 500-seat, state-of-the-art Goldsmith Theater.

Together these two structures embrace the city's history and future, creating a new cultural landmark. Within the treasured Post Office, existing spaces are re-imagined into the 150-seat Lovelace Studio Theater, a theater school for young people (opening in 2014), a café and gift shop (opening in 2014). The Wallis, the first performing arts center to be built in Beverly Hills, will be a home for artists from around the world and audiences of every age.

For its Inaugural Season, The Wallis will produce and present outstanding theater, music and dance, as well as exciting programming for the family audience. The venue will also enhance the live theater experience through special exhibitions that will reveal another layer of meaning to a show or presentation.

Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal will perform in The Bram Goldsmith Theater, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, on Friday, January 10 at 8:00 pm and Saturday, January 11 at 8:00 pM. Prices: $59.00-$129.00. Purcase in person - Wallis Annenberg Box Office, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210; by phone - 310-746-4000; or online - www.thewallis.org.

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