Thus was founded, in 1961, Canada's first school devoted entirely to modern dance: l'École de Danse Moderne de Montréal. This was an historically crucial, progressive school where the Martha Graham type of emotion was not sought, where the emphasis was on training the body to relieve emotional tension through sensitivity to movement, a consciousness of the body moving in space and time. Renaud and Riopelle's dance became more and more abstract, like the painting and music that interested them.
Among the most important collaborations after the founding of the École de Danse Moderne was the first International Week of Today's Music, a hugely ambitious festival of contemporary dance and music organized by Pierre Mercure and held in Montreal from August 3-8, 1961. Merce Cunningham was one of the invited guests. Jeanne Renaud performed in a dance choreographed by Françoise Riopelle set to a fifteen-minute piece of electroacoustic music by Mercure. Mercure had also begun working for Radio-Canada television in 1952 and soon became the producer of L'Heure du Concert, which showed some of the first televised dance in Canada, including Les Ballets Chiriaeff and later collaborations between Françoise Riopelle and Jeanne Renaud. Unfortunately, Radio-Canada television has destroyed recorded evidence of these performances.
As concrete evidence of stage performances, however, there is a well-designed house program entitled Danse et Musique d'Aujourd'hui (obviously a continuation of the 1961 event), produced by Le Groupe de Danse Moderne de Montréal (with an advertisement for the École de Danse Moderne on the back page). This event took place at the Théâtre de l'Égrégore in Montreal from February 7-9, 1964. It is significant that this program also reveals the introduction of Vincent Warren as guest artist from Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. As Les Grands Ballets Canadiens developed, Chiriaeff continued to lend dancers to Jeanne Renaud and Françoise Riopelle. Chiriaeff's professional generosity was important because it gave Renaud and Riopelle access to dancers with superb classical training and technique, allowing them to experiment with more complex choreographic ideas. This concert shows the group's ongoing commitment to international and Canadian contemporary music by composers such as Gilles Tremblay, Bruno Maderna, Pierre Mercure and Serge Garrant, with the titles of the dances apparently based on the titles of the musical compositions. Four of the choreographies were by Françoise Riopelle (Quatre pièces, Musique, Reflets, Sphères), three by Jeanne Renaud (Blanc sur blanc, Densité 21.05, Polarité). Jeanne Renaud also danced in Françoise Riopelle's Quatre pièces, and with Vincent Warren in her own Polarité. The following year, the same sort of program, with the same title and a similar brochure, was produced at Victoria Hall in Montreal. Once again, the music was absolutely contemporary, by composers such as Pierre Mercure and Serge Garant, and the dancers included (besides students from the École) Vincent Warren, Jocelyn Renaud, Nicole Vachon and Peter Boneham, all borrowed from Les Grands Ballets, all appearing in dances with or by Jeanne Renaud. In the spring of that year (May 8-10, 1964) Le Groupe took their work to Quebec City and the Théâtre de l'estoc, but here there were only three dancers performing: Renaud, Vincent Warren and Jocelyn Renaud.
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Jeanne Renaud Exhibition Curators: Ray Ellenwood and Allana Lindgren
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Le Groupe de Danse Moderne program, 1964