Serge Bennathan, choreographer, director (born at L'Aigle, France 14 Aug 1957). Serge Bennathan immigrated to Canada in 1985 and has established a reputation as one of Canada's most distinctive choreographers. As artistic director of DANCEMAKERS from 1990-2006, he reshaped and revitalized the company's image.
Bennathan was raised in Normandy, France, and moved to Paris to study dance in 1971. He joined Roland Petit's Ballet de Marseilles in 1974 and made his first visit to Canada during a company tour. He also began choreographing for Petit's troupe in 1978. Bennathan later worked with the former ballet star, director and teacher Rosella Hightower in Cannes, where he eventually had his first company. He decided to immigrate to Canada after financial problems forced the company's closure.
Serge Bennathan worked for 2 years with LE GROUPE DE LA PLACE ROYALE in Ottawa, then quit dancing and moved to Vancouver to concentrate on choreography. There he worked with various local troupes, including EDAM, Dancecorps, the Judith Marcuse Dance Company and BALLET BRITISH COLUMBIA as well as presenting his work independently. Bennathan also established connections with 2 of his most enduring artistic collaborators, the composer Arne Eigenfeldt and the designer Nancy Bryant.
Bennathan's interest in translating powerful, personally felt emotion into visceral, evocative movement was clearly evidenced in 2 of his works in Vancouver. The Desires of Merlin, Ballet British Columbia, 1989, is a symbolic meditation on contrasting aspects of female allure - the erotic and the spiritual. La Beauté du Diable, produced independently in 1990, was motivated by his own struggle with an intense love relationship, contrasting elements of the sacred and profane.
As artistic director of Dancemakers in Toronto Bennathan continued the company's shift from its repertory tradition of eclectic modern dance towards a more defined personality. Dancemakers became an almost exclusive vehicle for Bennathan's work, gaining stylistic homogeneity in the process as well as considerable national and international acclaim, particularly for the expressiveness and strength of its dancers. Under Bennathan, and because of his humanistic concerns and use of nonspecific but emotionally resonant imagery, Dancemakers was hailed as Toronto's only authentic exponent of New Dance, although Bennathan preferred to describe his work simply as "contemporary" and his style as "organic," reflecting his own varied movement interests.
Among his most successful works with Dancemakers was Quand les grand-mères s'envolent, 1992, which followed Bennathan's own emotional experience following the death of his grandmother, but generalized into a broader study of death and separation. Elements of its theme reappeared in the 1993 work Chronicles of a Simple Life, spurred by the death of a friend from AIDS, and Les vents tumultueux, 1994, which mixes text with movement, performed on a bare stage, in an exploration of the mutability of life and the creative passion of the artist. Notably, Bennathan's Sable/Sand (1995), which is dedicated to his father, and The Satie Project (2003), a collaboration with pianist Eve Egoyan, received DORA AWARDS for outstanding new choreography.
Bennathan continues to choreograph independently, notably for the NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, and Ballet British Columbia. He has successfully collaborated with several opera companies; for example, he choreographed for the CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY's remount of Salome (2002), directed by Atom EGOYAN.
In 2006, he left Dancemakers and started his own multi-disciplinary company, Les Productions Figlio, based in Vancouver. Bennathan is the 2012 recipient of the prestigious Alcan Rio Tinto Performing Arts Award.