Fernand Nault

Fernand-Noël Boissonneault, OC, GCQ, dancer, choreographer, teacher, director (born 27 December 1920 in Montreal, QC; died 26 December 2006 in Montreal). As resident choreographer of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Fernand Nault created highly theatrical ballets in an accessible, contemporary style. His honours include the Prix du Québec, the Prix Denise-Pelletier and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier in the Ordre national du Québec.

Fernand-Noël Boissonneault, OC, GCQ, dancer, choreographer, teacher, director (born 27 December 1920 in Montreal, QC; died 26 December 2006 in Montreal). As resident choreographer of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Fernand Nault created highly theatrical ballets in an accessible, contemporary style. His honours include the Prix du Québec, the Prix Denise-Pelletier and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier in the Ordre national du Québec.

Early Years and Career

After abandoning an early plan to become a priest, Fernand Nault trained at Montreal's popular Lacasse-Morenoff studio and performed in the Les Variétés Lyriques. He also studied later with teachers in the US and Europe.

In 1944, the visiting American Ballet Theater (ABT) auditioned in Montreal to fill a temporary vacancy. Nault was hired and remained with ABT until 1965. He was a noted character dancer and became known for his legendary memory for steps. He also began work as an ABT ballet master in 1958. He directed the company's school from 1960 to 1964.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

Nault's lengthy association with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal began with his return to Canada in 1965. He variously held the positions of associate director (1967–74), director of schools (1974–76) and resident choreographer. He created almost 30 original works for the company while also mounting productions of the classics. Notable examples of his innovative works include Carmina Burana (1967) and the early rock ballet Tommy (1970). These greatly contributed to the company's popularity, especially with a younger audience, at a crucial period in the company’s early development.

In 1969, Nault’s dance setting of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms was performed during Holy Week in Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. It was viewed as a historic rapprochement between the Roman Catholic clergy and the art of ballet, which was previously denounced as immoral by the church in Quebec. Les Grands Ballets named Nault choreographer emeritus in 1990 and periodically revives selected works of his. The company continues to perform his popular staging of The Nutcracker each December.

Other Activities

Nault also worked widely as a guest choreographer in the United States and in Canada. He was resident guest choreographer of the Colorado Ballet (1978–81) and its artistic director (1981–82). In 2003, he established the Fonds chorégraphique Fernand Nault in Gatineau, Quebec, to preserve the artistic integrity and availability of his ballets. He appointed his longtime assistant, André Laprise, as the foundation's trustee.

Honours and Awards

Nault’s honours include the Prix du Québec (1984), the Prix Denise-Pelletier (1984) and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement (2000). He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (1977) and a Chevalier in the Ordre national du Québec (1990). He and Karen Kain were featured in the Legends of Canadian Ballet permanent stamp series issued by Canada Post in 2021.