Les Grands Ballets Canadiens visits the U
To film director Ezra Belotte-Cousineau, Paris is the city of giving. Tourists come to consume the iconic capital’s refined cuisine and world-famous fashion. But when Canadian dance troupe Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (GBC) visited the city of lights, the roles were finally reversed, with Paris on the receiving end of cultural exchange.
The University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium was set to join Paris in receiving Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, but on April 6, the troupe was forced to cancel due to a lack of funds. However, thanks to Belotte-Cousineau’s documentary, “Quelques Pas à Paris,” students were still able to witness the artistic prowess of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.
The film opens with a series of clips from GBC: dancers writhing in mobster suits and menacing Tim Burton-esque wedding scenes make up a few of the troupe’s ominous appearances. As the documentary unfolds, it is clear that Belotte-Cousineau’s film is about more than the troupe’s haunting performances. He takes viewers behind the scenes of GBC, documenting the ballerinas’ daily struggles.
When interviewed, dancer Jean-Sébastien Couture waxed poetic about the difficulty yet classicality of pointe, then frankly discussed his struggles as a freelance artist to attain suitable living conditions. Later, a 10 minute segment of the film documents the dancers’ current maladies, ranging anywhere from bruised heels to torn calves. Shots of incredible jetés, broken toes, and napping ballerinas intermingle in opposing scenes that give the documentary a distinctly personal dimension.
Dancer Jean-Sébastien Couture waxed poetic about the difficulty yet classicality of pointe, then frankly discussed his struggles as a freelance artist to attain suitable living conditions.
As Belotte-Cousineau narrates GBC’s world, viewers get the feeling that he is just as new to this Narnia of dance as his viewers. He enters the sets with a sense of wonder, remarking at one point that “grace is a front for an uncommon physical effort.”
While the group may walk a wacky line of contrasts, they have definitely earned their stars. In “Quelques Pas à Paris,” Belotte-Cousineau says that Paris was the ultimate judge of the troupe, and there is no doubt that the city of lights approved of the ensemble, eccentric flair and all. Much like its muse, Belotte-Cousineau’s documentary bases itself in a world in contrasts, drawing in viewers with the same eclectic touch that attracted so many Parisians to the ballet itself.