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JTI Meetings, 2023. Ballets Jazz Montréal presents “Dance Me”

Monday, 27 November 2023 , ora 10.55

The impressions of an avid fan of the art of dancing

"Dance Me is a love letter to Leonard Cohen and to the world, a heart-to-heart connection to the public. You are invited to a walk with the great poet and composer, in the snow or the rain, the sun or the spring that brings hope", as stated today by Alexandra Damiani, the Artistic Director of Ballets Jazz Montréal (BJM), at the press conference held in honor of the 24th edition of the JTI Meetings.

On the evenings of the 16th and 17th of November, the Canadian company Ballets Jazz Montréal performed the show Dance Me on the TNB stage, on Leonard Cohen's music. Does Cohen's music really need movement?! Doesn't it actually hold EVERYTHING in it: snow, rain, sun or the spring that brings hope, as Mrs. Damiani very nicely put it?! I recalled some choreographed lyrics during which there was dancing, for example, on Mozart's Requiem and I closed my eyes wishing to only listen to the music that was, however, infuriatingly tainted by the sounds of pointe shoes on the ballet stage, and I felt a little bit of fear. Fear that slowly vanished after the first piece, Here It Is, and the others, - Lover, Lover, Lover, Dance Me to the End of Love, Boogie Street, Steer Your Way, Everybody Knows, Tower of Song, So Long, Marianne, Suzanne, Famous Blue Raincoat, Nevermind, First We Take Manhattan, It Seemed the Better Way, Hallelujah, String Reprise/ Treaty - I relishedall throughout the 80 minutes of music, movement, word and light… with growing joy to ecstasy. I'm not a ballet columnist and, as a life-long avid fan of the art of dancing, I'm really glad when all-knowing pens lay down my very thoughts and joy on the page because, I dare say that shows are made for the public, and not for columnists. Indeed, I completely agree with Huffington Post, whose pages write about Dance Me as "… a stunning stage production carried out by Éric Jean, with luxurious lights, emotional videos and thousands of spectacular effects [...] A brilliant and sophisticated mise-en-scene transforms this complex and diverse piece into a visual feast and a delight of sound"!

I would only specifically like to add, that the body language chosen by the three choreographers and concentrated in a fluid movement, that flows with no breaks, no sharp angles, no sudden twists, has proven to be ideal for Cohen's music which also infiltrates itself delicately and subtly in the mind and soul, without the need to overcome any obstacle. Easier said than done! But not for the dancers who find in the combination of technique, strength, stunts, resilience and sensibility, expression, delicacy and sensuality, the very essence of their art and personality. I've watched 14 artists who have lived, before our eyes, through stories either happy or sad, but never hopeless, dancing on Cohen's lyrics enhanced by the music of the Canadian artist with intoxicating understanding, commitment and passion. There have been three renowned choreographers who have worked for Dance Me and who, although have had different visions, have managed to create a unitary performance. "Andonis Foniadakis has focused on dynamic by creating a contrast between dance and music, Ihsan Rustem has brought forth the story, trying to find out why and when Leonard Cohen wrote the piece, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa has managed to capture the emotion. Éric Jeanhas brought a touch of simplicity, which makes the show magical. Whenever we perform Dance Me, we feel the presence of Leonard Cohen among us, crossing the stage with his figure, hat and unmistakable coat", I'm quoting Alexandra Damiani once again. We were told that the musician had known and approved the show, but had unfortunately passed away before the day of the premiere. Otherwise, he would have applauded as well, with a satisfied smile, this Dance Me show of the Ballets Jazz Montréal company. And he would have admired, like ourselves, - basically, slack-jawed and full of thrilling emotion - the amazing things that the light shows have created before our eyes, the stage cut-outs and the shaping of silhouettes in motion or in pictures, which can be deemed as a master's paintings. Scenically, visually, musically, dramaturgically (story) and choreographically, Dance Me is a priceless gem and we're glad we could enjoy its beauty. "Ballets Jazz Montréal is celebrating its 50 years of existence while JTI is turning 30. We are part of everything good that has happened after 1990. Including values, because we associate JTI with freedom, with what's right and beautiful. Together with Mr. Valerian Mareș and Silvia Ghiațã, our partners for the long run, we wish to continue organizing this event and we are inviting you in advance to the 25th anniversary edition of the JTI Meetings, held in Bucharest and Sibiu, as part of FITS 2024", as announced by Gilda Lazãr, JTI Director. An invitation to which I'll also respond to in advance and say YESSSSS!


This year, the JTI company is turning 30 years old, a history which is part of everything good that has happened in Romania after 1990. Opened in 2000 by the renowned ballet company "Bejart Ballet Lausanne", the JTI Meetings have been dedicated to dancing in particular, having hosted famous choreographers and dance companies, such as Nacho Duato andCompañía Nacional de Danza, Joaquin Cortes, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Tango Pasion, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant, Gigi Cãciuleanu and the Chilean National Ballet, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Vortice Dance Company, Maria Pagés and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Akram Khan Company, Quartet Gala-Mats Ek, Ana Laguna, Susanne Linke and Dominique Mercy, in 2017 - Noism, the most important contemporary dance company from Japan; in 2018 - Martha Graham Dance Company; and in 2019 - IT Dansa Company, part of the Theatre Institute of Barcelona. The JTI Meetings from 2020 and 2021 were postponed because of the pandemic, taking place a year later. The 2020 edition, which took place in 2021, welcomed Wynton Marsalis, today's greatest trumpet player, and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In 2022, the "Jean-Claude Gallotta" dance company performed "My Ladies Rock" in Bucharest and Sibiu, as part of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, while "Aterballetto", the biggest Italian dance company, performed "Don Juan".

The JTI Meetings with Ballets Jazz de Montréal are organized by the Art Production Fund, as per usual, with the help of Silvia Ghiațã's artistic guidance.

General Producer: Art Production Fund

DANCE ME -Ballets Jazz Montréal

Music: Leonard Cohen

Choreography: Andonis Foniadakis, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Ihsan Rustem

Concept: Louis Robitaille

Dramaturgy and Staging: Éric Jean

Music Director: Martin Léon

Sound Master: Alexis Dumais

Scenery and Props: Pierre-Etienne Locas

Technical Direction, Scenery: Alexandre Brunet

Light Technicians: Cédric Delorme-Bouchard and Simon Beetschen

Video Concept: HUB Studio - Gonzalo Soldi, Thomas Payette and Jeremy Fassio

Costume Concept: Philippe Dubuc

Costume Production: Anne-Marie Veevaete

Assistant Director: Elsa Posnic

Sound Engineer: Guy Fortin

Dancers: Andrew Mikhaiel, DaMond LeMonte Garner, Yosmell Calderon, Shanna Laurie Irwin, Austin Lichty, Larissa Andrea Leung, Diana Cedeno

Photo by Ciprian Zinca

Cristina Sârbu
Translated by Raluca Daniela Miloș,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu