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The Biennial celebrates creativity in all its forms, from upcoming young talents to stars from the world of dance, passionately, in a festive spirit which spreads across the city like the glittering trails of fireworks. (Lyon City Hall)
The first edition of the Dance Biennial took place in 1984: an amazing edition, attended by throngs of spectators. Notwithstanding, it resulted in the organizing association being 1 million French francs in the red. Nonetheless, the then Mayor of Lyon, Francisque Collomb, decided to pursue the project by alternating the Dance Biennial with the Hector Berlioz International Music Festival and then with the French Music Biennial, on a yearly basis. In 1991, the Contemporary Art Biennial replaced music every odd-numbered year.
For three weeks, a city, a region, will be in a state of dance. (Guy Darmet, 1988)
Lyon Dance Biennial focuses on an ever-so simple project: abolish stylistic and geographical boundaries so that the greatest number of spectators possible can have access to dances, all dances that exist today, irrespective of whether they originate in ancient traditions or are absolutely new to the stage. The Biennial illustrates its truly initiatory calling, by accompanying the public on its journey of discovery through this century’s essential choreographic trends and by sparking exchanges and new encounters. Right from the very beginning its aim was to reach out to wider audiences and to invite them to join in the dance through public balls, dance lessons, etc.
The association’s first chief executive, from its inception until 1999, was Henri Destezet, who oversaw the creation of the two events and their stabilisation. His successor, Sylvie Burgat, has since professionalized and strongly developed the whole enterprise.
From 1984 to 1990, Guy Darmet chose to showcase performances at the Biennial centre staging themes focusing on the major dance trends: in 1984, pride of place was given to the great masters of dance during the 20th century, 1986 highlighted German expressionism to celebrate the centenary of Mary Wigman’s birth, 1988 was a journey into four centuries of dance in France and 1990 entitled a century of dance in the United States featured American modern dance.
The Biennial addresses the public’s curiosity and desire to gain insight into often overlooked companies and artists. (Michel Mercier, 1996)
In 1992, the Biennial became more inclined towards geographical and geopolitical themes: Pasión de España in 1992; Mama Africa in 1994; Aquarela do Brasil in 1996, the edition which included the Défilé (choreographed parade) for the first time, which went on to become a “must” event of Lyon’s Dance Biennial (àDéfilé); Mediterranea in 1998; Silk Roads in 2000; Terra Latina in 2002. During this edition, dance lessons, which were held outside on Lyon’s Place des Terreaux, were such a success that they have since been repeated during each Biennial.
In 2004, the Biennial chose to come back to more European-style dances with Europa. In 2006, with Dancing the City, the Lyon Biennial unveiled projects from 29 cities across the world, focusing on 4 themes: urban dances, great cities with dance at their heart, the relationship between contemporary architecture and choreography, and dance in public places. For its 25th anniversary in 2008, the Biennial indulged in an edition entitled Past Forward, an opportunity to reunite with choreographers who had left their mark on the various editions of the Dance Biennial. In 2010, Guy Darmet signed off his last Biennial with Encore! after a spell of 14 editions as Artistic Director. Intentionally themeless, Darmet’s final edition was a classy medley of his artistic favourites.
2012, the first edition with Dominique Hervieu as Artistic Director, highlighted new work by hosting 19 creations including those of 8 companies in residence in Lyon. This 15th edition was a huge success, with 94% attendance and saw the emergence of the “Amateur Studio”, the Biennial’s amateur dance laboratory, as well as the “Studio of Perspectives”, where spectators are given a central role.
Interview with Dominique Hervieu
Lyon Dance Biennial’s Artistic Director was invited as a guest on the show “L’Autre Direct”. She presented her first edition of the Dance Biennial.
Yes let’s celebrate, yes let’s open up to the world, yes let’s have amateurs and, at the same time, yes we have to show the best of artists’ creations”. (Dominique Hervieu, 2016)
The “Amateur Studio”, 2012
This is the Dance Biennial’s amateur dance laboratory. It showcases a range of artistic experiences between amateurs and professionals: the défilé (the choreographed parade), Kids’ Battle, flashmob, dance lessons, etc.
In 2014, the Biennial placed the focus on circus and performance. An opportunity to reconnect with Jan Fabre for an 8-hour show, Anne Juren, Yoann Bourgeois, and XY company’s acrobats. In 2016, the Dance Biennial proposed a highly-popular yet brilliantly-experimental festival, with 43 performances including 23 creations. An invitation to rejoice in every form of dance: from Thierry Malandain’s neo-classical through the musical featuring Jean-Claude Gallotta and Olivia Ruiz to a touch of minimalism with Vincent Dupont. It was also the occasion to discover leading lights like Cristiana Morganti, Louise Lecavalier, Jonah Bokaer and Olivia Grandville.
Assert indispensible values and essentials in today’s world of art: enhance efforts to support artistic creation and promote audience participation. (Dominique Hervieu, 2012)