International Contemporary Dance Festival


At the confluence of choreographic creations, something special from Lyon.

As early as 1969, when arriving at the head of the “Opéra Nouveau de Lyon”, Louis Erlo gave a key place to dance. For the first time, an opera house outside of Paris consecrated to its ballet company entire events devoted to dance.

Ever since, it has never stopped opening up to every kind of source, be it a stream or a river, close or far, harmonious or stormy. But, whatever the case, always talented. Right from the start, the Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon has lived out this vivifying opening to the world, with its first directors, the Italian Vittorio Biagi, then the Yugoslav Milko Speremblek and the New-Zealander Gray Veredon, who were all in the neo-classical, Béjartian movement of the times.

But, as of 1985, it was Françoise Adret who gave the company a resolutely plural turn. “Mère Adret” as her dancers affectionately called her, had an eye, the gift of the gab and a large address book. Above all, Française had travelled widely and her mission was to give the troop a national and international dimension. She built up a repertory based on a twofold spectrum: great international choreographers who were still little demanded, (and not the least of them, including Jiří Kylián, Mats Ek, Nacho Duato or William Forsythe) and an opportunity given to “young French dance” (Mathilde Monnier, Maryse Delente, or Angelin Preljocaj)… In any troop, there are moments of grace. But, in Lyon, a lightning bolt was to change the course of history. In 1985, no one imagined that a magical doll (Maguy Marin’s Snow White) would provide the company with a world tour, with no fewer than three trips to the USA in just 1987… Three years later, Lyon did it again by creating the famous rereading of Romeo and Juliet by Angelin Prejlocaj. This was a fresh challenge (and, for the choreographer, his first important commission), and another memorable piece. The die was now cast …

When, in 1991, the Greek ballet-master and director Yorkos Loukos replaced Françoise Adret, the trend was set and has continued to thrive until today, with an extremely open-minded “choreographic” palette. Maguy Marin, who had become resident choreographer, set off even more sparks when, in 1993, she inaugurated the new Opéra de Lyon with an offbeat version of Coppélia set in a popular bar in the suburbs of Lyon. With turnings-back towards the history of dance, views of the contemporary scene, visions of what it will be tomorrow, a plurality of styles, the ages of the choreographers, their origins, and backgrounds, the strength of the Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon comes from the very absence of any particularity, except if it is the highly diverse repertory as sought out by Yorgos Loukos. It goes without saying that it attracts the public (who love novelty) and today’s young dancers, who like and are used to changes of style. Even the teachers are in constant motion, changing every month, so as to avoid any routine.

Today, the company has a repertory of 117 pieces, over half of which are creations. A list of the choreographers who have worked in Lyon is a reminder of the importance of the pioneers of new French dance (Mathilde Monnier, Jean-Claude Gallotta) and its young cousins (from Jérôme Bel to Christian Rizzo, Alain Buffard or Rachid Ouramdane). It also means meeting the guiding lights of modern American dance (Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, Lucinda Childs), from post-classic energy (William Forsythe, Benjamin Millepied) to the "next wave" (such as Otto Ramstad). It means exploring Belgian musicality (de Keersmaeker) Swedish theatricality (Mats Ek), Czech lyricism (Jiří Kylián), or Israeli power (Ohad Naharin, Emanuel Gat). It means getting used to seeing new talents (Tania Carvalho, Alessandro Sciarroni, Marina Mascarell..). It means… being at the confluences of a dance that has never been so open to the world.

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