Only institution in North America to provide a professional ballet program entirely taught in French
The mission of L’École supérieure de ballet du Québec is to train professional dancers of national and international stature.
The school’s exclusive mandate is supported by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec and is also recognized by the Department of Canadian Heritage to carry out its mission.
The excellence-driven methods of L’École supérieure are based on an in depth knowledge of the human body, with deep roots in classical dance tradition.
Building on a solid technical foundation, the training offered at L’École supérieure develops students’ versatility, preparing them to dance a wide variety of styles ranging from established repertoire works to the creations of contemporary choreographers.
The school cultivates a new generation of top-level artistic talent and encourages the practice of ballet in dancers of all ages. In addition to the professional instruction for which it is renowned, it offers ballet classes for children, teens and adults as part of its recreational programs.
The origins of L’École supérieure de ballet du Québec date back to the early 1950s and coincide with the advent of television in French Canada. It was, in fact, in response to a contractual commitment with Radio-Canada (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) that Ludmilla Chiriaeff, a Berlin-trained dancer from Russia who had recently immigrated to Montreal, founded a ballet company and school. Les Ballets Chiriaeff and its affiliated school opened in 1952 to provide dancers for the variety shows of North America’s very first French-language television station.
The company also started to perform on stage and became incorporated under the name Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in 1957. The school catered to both amateurs and dancers aspiring to a career in ballet.
In 1966, at the request of the Ministère des Affaires Culturelles du Québec, Ms. Chiriaeff created the province’s first professional dance school: the Académie des Grands Ballets Canadiens, which in 1976 became the École supérieure de danse des Grands Ballets Canadiens. Later, in 1980, it obtained its own independent charter and became the École supérieure de danse du Québec. That same year, the school settled in its present location in the Maison de la danse du Québec building.
In 1973, the school introduced a concentration in ballet at the Pierre Laporte secondary school. In 1979, the Cégep du Vieux Montréal also became an academic partner of the École supérieure and started offering a three-year technical program in classical dance performance. Later, in 1986, the dance-study program was also introduced at the École Laurier elementary school.
Ludmilla Chiriaeff retired from ballet instruction in 1992. Her successors in the directorship of the dance school were Thérèse Cadrin-Petit, who danced for the National Ballet of Canada and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Luc Amyot, former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada and the Dutch National Ballet, and Didier Chirpaz, who was the featured dancer at the Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon and at the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève.
In 1997, Didier Chirpaz began introducing a series of instructional reforms and experiments. To reflect his avant-garde vision of contemporary ballet, the institution adopted the name École supérieure de ballet contemporain de Montréal in 2006.
Following Mr. Chirpaz’s retirement in 2009, the Board of Directors sought to steer the school back to its original mission of training dancers to master the classical dance technique. To fulfill this request, the Board appointed in 2010 a new Artistic Director, Anik Bissonnette, whose professional credits include being principal dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens for close to seventeen years. In 2011, in order to consolidate its mission, its role in dance development in Quebec and its status as a dance leader, the school was renamed L’École supérieure de ballet du Québec.
L’École supérieure de ballet du Québec is part of the Maison de la danse du Québec, located in the heart of the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood. At a stone’s throw away from the Laurier subway station, it is a vital part of the cultural life that is the hallmark of Montreal.
The building, a former garage, was renovated in 1980 to house dance studios, change rooms with showers, and a cafeteria. With 4,180 square feet of space, it is also home to Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and La Bibliothèque de la danse Vincent-Warren dance library. It is a unique environment that brings together professional dancers, students pursuing intensive dance training as well as dance enthusiasts.