Houston Ballet Presents Acclaimed Canadian Troupe Les Grands Ballets Canadiens De Montréal In Cullen Series, 2/1 & 2

Houston Ballet Presents Acclaimed Canadian Troupe  Les Grands Ballets Canadiens De Montréal In Cullen Series, 2/1 & 2

On Friday, February 1 and Saturday, February 2, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal as part of the Cullen Series. One of the missions of the Cullen Series is to introduce the city to exciting contemporary dance makers. Under the artistic direction of Gradimir Pankov, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal will perform Cantata and Four Seasons by Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti. Four Seasons is set to Antonio Vivaldi's score of the same name. The twelve-movement ballet highlights classical technique with contemporary motion. Cantata features live traditional Southern Italian music by Gruppo Musicale Assurd, a quartet of female singers from Italy. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal will give two performances in the Cullen Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting www.houstonballet.org.

When Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal last visited Houston in 2008, audiences adored the vitality and theatricality of the dancers. By popular demand, this vibrant company is back for its fourth appearance in Houston. Both Four Seasons and Cantata were praised by critics when Les Grand performed them at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival during the summer of 2009. Janine Parker, a correspondent with The Boston Globe commented, "In Four Seasons they seamlessly morph from a contorted tussle with the floor, say, into a familiar ballet step thrown off with a winning insouciance. . . The solos and duets are intimate and charged with sex and power, yearning and playfulness. But the 12 movements reveal Bigonzetti's deftness with all configurations: His sections of just men, or just women, are intensely rhythmic with driving, dynamic phrase" (August 20, 2009). Writing for Montreal Gazette dance critic Victor Swooba observed, "Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal returned to Jacob's Pillow last week after a four year absence and again triumphed . . . Under subtle lighting that gave a pleasing natural fullness to their body contours, the dancers performed Cantata splendidly. The work's many earthy moments when bodies slide across the floor or mount each other or bunch together had a spontaneity that was infectious." (Montreal Gazette, Augustt 7, 2009)

"We are very proud to be bringing back Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal with two very fresh and imaginative works, Four Seasons and Cantata," remarks Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch. "They are one of the world's leading dance companies."

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal was formed in 1957 by Ludmilla Chiriaeff, a former ballerina who is credited with helping introduce the art form to Canadian audiences. The company made its U.S. debut at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in 1959. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal is often described as a diverse and adventurous company rooted in classical ballet traditions. Its repertory includes full-length classical ballets, but also works by some of today's leading contemporary choreographers, including Ji?í Kylián, Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, Mauro Bigonzetti, and Nacho Duato. In 2000, Gradimir Pankov was named artistic director of the company, after directing several renowned international dance companies, including Nederlands Dans Theater II, National Ballet of Finland, Cullberg Ballet, and Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève. The New York Times' John Rockwell has praised Pankov's contributions to the company, saying that his "revolution at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal continues, with breathtaking results."

Cantata, a 40-minute work, is an exploration of the multiple facets of relations shared between men and women, from seduction to jealousy to lovers' quarrels. Cantata pays homage to Italian culture and musical traditions, and highlights the integral relationship between music and dance. Featuring a musical score that includes Italian serenades and lullabies, Montreal's Le Devoir calls Cantata "a hymn to rugged Mediterranean beauty, Italian culture, and its musical and popular tradition." Mr. Welch comments, "Cantata is the complete experience of Italy, which we are looking forward to sharing with our Houston audience."

Featuring a cast of 20 dancers, Four Seasons, another 40-minute ballet, is structured in 12 scenes to match the 12 movements in Vivaldi's score. In describing his decision to choreograph to such a well-known piece of music, Mr. Bigonzetti has said that he wanted to "take on this challenge whose grandeur lies in the possibility to express - once again - something different, new, despite the familiarity of this work known to all." He continues, "After so many centuries, these notes can still stir the heart of human beings." Montréal's La Presse states that Four Seasons is "a graceful jewel carved of extreme choreographic difficulty, dizzying performance speed, and fine attention to every detail...It's stunning and remarkable."

Choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti began his dance training at Rome Opera Ballet School at the age of 11, and became a full-time company member eight years later. He danced there for four years before joining Aterballetto, a modern dance company in northern Italy. There he performed in works by George Balanchine, Léonide Massine, Alvin Ailey, and William Forsythe, before becoming a freelance choreographer in 1990. He has since choreographed for companies all over the world, including in Italy, England, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Turkey, France, and Canada. Some of his most recent works include In Vento for New York City Ballet, Romeo and Juliet for Aterballetto, Caravaggio for Staatsballett Berlin, and Festa Barocca for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Until 2007, he was artistic director of Aterballetto. He remains their resident choreographer.

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