Les Grands Ballets Canadiens changes name of Femmes ballet after criticism
The Montreal-based Grands Ballets Canadiens has changed the name and theme of its show Femmes, after women criticized the company for commissioning a ballet touted as a tribute to women but choreographed by three men.
The Grands Ballets was also criticized for the way it promoted Femmes, which included online ads with a picture of three male dancers trapped in ice, as well as language that promised the performance was a way for three “distinguished” European choreographers to “explore one of our culture’s most generous symbols: woman.”
The ballet’s name has been changed to Parlami d’Amore, Italian for “talk to me about love,” and will feature explorations of “this universal theme” of love, according to a release from the company.
It will be performed in May 2019.
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Kathleen Rea, a former dancer with the National Ballet Company and now a Toronto-based choreographer, launched a petition Sunday to get the Grands Ballets to add a female choreographer to the mix and to change the marketing language. The petition garnered over 2,600 signatures in two days.
“Many women are standing up and saying, ‘Hey, I’m not a symbol. I’m an actual person with stories to tell, and I have my own voice,'” Rea told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak on Tuesday.
The artistic director of Les Grands Ballets, Ivan Cavallari — who left the Ballet de l’Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg, France, to join the company last April — said his intention was not to objectify women.
“Exactly the contrary, that is where I wanted to lead,” he told CBC News in an interview. He said he wants to portray “woman as a model of the world and not woman as an object.”
“In that sense, I’ve been completely misunderstood, because my intention has been honest,” said Cavallari.
Of the criticism, he said, “It’s legitimate: it’s possible that I’ve done a mistake, but it was not my intention.”
Instead, Cavallari said, his goal was to open a dialogue and explore how art can portray women.
Seeking more women choreographers
Rea said that in the 50 or so ballets she danced, only a single one was choreographed by a woman.
A lifelong fan of the art form, she said she thought the industry was changing and was dismayed when she saw the marketing campaign for Femmes.
Rea said Natalie Dion, the head of public relations for Les Grands Ballets, reached out to her and arranged her to meet Cavallari on Monday. It’s a gesture she called a “positive sign,” one that indicates he is willing to listen to critics’ concerns.