Hard-driving BJM Danse closes Pittsburgh Dance Council season
April 20, 2017 12:00 AM
Mono Lisa by Craig Bannerman performed by BJM Danse.
“Kosmos" by Adonis Foniodakis, BJM Danse.
Celine Cassone, principal dancer with BJM Danse.
By Jane Vranish / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There will be a lot to celebrate when BJM Danse caps the Pittsburgh Dance Council season Saturday at the Byham Theater, Downtown. The company itself is the second oldest group (45 years) in the rich Montreal dance scene, something that PDC has wisely tapped for a long time.
In fact, BJM has been here three times (mostly under the moniker Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal), the last time in 2010.
Where: Byham Theater, Downtown.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: $10-$60; 412-456-6666, www.pgharts.org or Box Office at Theater Square.
No matter. The company has always presented hard-driving, exciting performances that resonate with audiences. Part of the reason is the presence of artistic director Louis Robitaille, who will soon celebrate 20 years heading the company.
In fact, he began his illustrious Canadian career with the group before embarking on a dance journey that included Compagnie de danse Eddy Toussaint, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, a gold medal prize for choreographer Mr. Toussaint at Helsinki International Ballet Competition, and guest offers from around the world. With partner Anik Bissonnette, the two became darlings of the Canadian dance world. On his own, Mr. Robitaille has been awarded the Order of Canada, the Ordre national du Quebec and the Jacqueline Lemieux Prize.
But it seems that BJM has defined the Canadian artist’s life as he came full circle back to his “home” company. He admits that the group has changed considerably in those 45 years. “It was very different,” he begins. “It was a jazz dance company [set] to jazz music.”
Today it encompasses “the emotion of dance” and has changed considerably. He considers it not only more contemporary, but also a “fusion” of dance styles.
That means bringing some of the best, brightest and newest choreographers into the BJM fold, something that has defined the ensemble in its Pittsburgh appearances.
In 2010, the emphasis was on women, Annabel Lopez Ochoa and Crystal Pite, who have since established a heavy choreographic footprint on their own. This time it’s three men in an international role — dual citizenship for American/Israeli Barak Marshall, who appeared here at PDC in 2011, and Israeli/Netherlands’ Itzik Galili, plus Greek-born and bred Adonis Foniodakis.
They will collectively celebrate dance itself — Mr. Robitaille deliberately searches for artists who will fit into the mission of the company, “really physical, very bright, a positive energy, accessible” and capable of producing work for dancers “with a lot of personality and talent.”
As such, the program will begin with Mr. Foniodakis’ “Kosmos,” a “really high energy ballet that pushes the dancers to their physical limits. It brings the audience into a feeling of rush hour in a big city, where everything goes really fast,” says Mr. Robitaille. Set to an original soundtrack, “it seems chaotic but is so organized.”
Mr. Galili will bring a duet, “Mono Lisa,” to be performed by BJM principal dancers Celine Cassone (also artistic coordinator and Mr. Robitaille’s wife) and Alexander Hille.
Mr. Robitaille calls it “a very athletic duet, very difficult, almost gymnastic.” With dashes of humor, the two dancers compete, challenge and tease each other in what he terms “a sweet duel.”
It all wraps up with Mr. Marshall’s oddly titled “Harry,” where the main character encounters difficult obstacles in his life. Using text mixed with dance and balloons, it “treats serious subjects with a lot of humor” and is “quite light, bringing the ballet to a human scale.”
With the personal and company anniversaries tracking nicely, Mr. Robitaille happily looks to the future. “We are a touring dance company — the world is our playground,” he notes. And by maintaining global connections with choreographers, the company can be “a mirror of what’s going on.”
Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: email@example.com. She blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.