Born in Bolzano, Italy, in 1964, Ivan Cavallari received his initial training at the Teatro alla Scala Ballet School in Milan. His teachers recognized his talent by awarding him a scholarship to the Bolchoi Ballet School in Moscow in 1981, where he continued his training until 1983. From 1984 to 1985, he danced with the Scala Ballet School before joining the Stuttgart Ballet in 1986, where he became a soloist and then principal dancer under the successive directorships of Marcia Haydée and Reid Anderson. He danced all the leading roles of John Cranko’s ballets and regularly staged the latter’s works with the Royal Ballet Covent Garden in London, La Scala in Milan, the Czech National Ballet, among many other companies. He also staged numerous works by Uwe Scholz, and choreographed ballets for the Stuttgart Ballet, the State Opera Ballet in Hanover, the Lodz State Opera Ballet in Poland, the Mannheim Ballet, the Vienna State Opera Ballet, the Staatsgallerie Stuttgart and the Liaoning Ballet of China.
From 2007 to 2012, he was the Artistic Director of the West Australian Ballet, the oldest dance company in Australia. In 2013, he was named the Artistic Director of the Ballet de l’Opéra national du Rhin, where he staged such works as Dolly in April 2013, and his own choreographies of Pinocchio in 2014 and The Nutcracker in 2016.
He takes over the helm of Les Grands Ballets as Artistic Director as of the 2017-2018 season. As a choreographer, he creates new pieces such as Presto-Detto, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, bringing the company’s repertoire in a resolutely classical direction while remaining anchored in modernity.
Unsung heroes of the Grands Ballets
Macedonia native Gradimir Pankov has been in love with dance for 54 years. He began his career as a brilliant dancer in the former Yugoslavia and in Germany, before successively taking over the artistic direction of Nederlands Dans Theater II (the Netherlands), National Ballet of Finland (Helsinki), Cullberg Ballet (Sweden), and Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève (Switzerland). He has also served as a guest instructor with the most prestigious ballet companies in the world: Paris Opera Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, Cullberg Ballet, Gulbenkian Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. On his road to success, he met and made lasting friendships with what are today's leading ballet figures, including Jiří Kylián, Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, and rising stars like Didy Veldman and Stijn Celis.
A man of passion and openness, Pankov is passionate about all forms of expression. Undaunted by challenges, he aspires to make Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal into a company that stands out both in the world of ballet and that of culture in general.
Gradimir Pankov succeeded Lawrence Rhodes as artistic director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal in October 1999. By his own admission, he turned Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal into one of the most exciting companies in the world of ballet – between respect for tradition and a willingness to innovate.
Belgian-born Steve Coutereel studied at the Royal Academy of Ballet in Antwerp.
At the age of 17, just one year before graduating, Steve Coutereel is offered a contract by The Royal Ballet of Flanders, thus becoming the company’s youngest dancer. Two years later, he leaves Belgium to join the Ballet du Nord, in France, before moving to the United States.
With the San Francisco Ballet, he perfects his Balanchine repertory. With Hubbard Street Dance Chicago he dances works by Ohad Naharin, Jiri Kylian and Nacho Duato. Eight years after moving to the United States, he leaves for Canada.
In 2002, Mr. Coutereel joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and was promoted to first soloist a year later. He created roles in such works as Noces and Cinderella by Stijn Celis, a piece he will later recreate for several companies including Introdans (Holland), Semperoper (Germany) and Ballet du Capitole (France). He also collaborated with Mats Ek on his Solo for Two – an impressive 25-minute pas de deux – and Apartement.
A persistent knee injury forced him to bid farewell to the stage. Passionate about languages, he used that time to study translation at the University of McGill. In 2011, driven by his love for dance, he goes back to working in the studios, this time as a teacher at l’École supérieure. In 2013, Gradimir Pankov welcomes him in Les Grands Ballets’ artistic direction team, for the creation of Dream Away.
Since then, he’s worked with the world’s greatest contemporary choreographers, including Stijn Celis, Stephan Thos, Didy Veldman, Mats Ek and Ohad Naharin.
Hervé Courtain received his formal dance training at the Paris Opera Ballet dance school after which he joined the famous company and was named, at the age of 23, sujet soliste.
There, he danced various soloist and principal roles and a varied repertoire from some of the greatest choreographers: Rudolf Noureev, Pierre Lacotte, William Forsythe, George Balanchine, Maurice Béjart, Jirí Kylián, Mats Ek,John Neumeier.
In 2000, he received the prize of the Association pour le Rayonnement de l’Opéra de Paris (AROP). Then, in 2001, he danced for a year as a soloist at Boston Ballet. The following year he received his state diploma for dance instruction from Elisabeth Platel, Director of the Paris Opera Ballet dance school.
He then joined in 2004 Les Grands Ballets Canadiens under the artistic direction of Gradimir Pankov and was named First Soloist the following year. His repertoire broadened once again with new collaborations in principal roles with, notably, Ohad Naharin, Marco Goecke, Christian Spuck, Stjn Celis, Kim Brandstrup, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Peter Quanz, Ken Ossola, Jirí Kylián and many others.
In 2017, he is entrusted with new responsabilities as a ballet master and guest professor with the company and abroad, notably for the Stockholm Opera, Dresden Opera, Roma Opera and the National Ballet of Canada.
In July 2019, he took his last bow onstage as a dancer and was officially named by Ivan Cavallari as ballet master for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.
Marina Villanueva Arias was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1982, she joined the Cuban National Ballet under the direction of Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso. She became a soloist in the company and performed many of the greatest titles of the classical ballet repertoire: Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Coppelia, La Bayadère, The Nutcracker, La Fille mal gardée and more. She also danced neoclassical and contemporary repertoire, and performed on the biggest international stages in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, China, Argentina, Portugal, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, etc.
Later, she coached the Revolution ballet company and was appointed as a judge for the prestigious National Dance School competition organized by the Cuban Ministry of Culture. Over the years, she helped many young dancers prepare for various national competitions. She moved to Montreal, Quebec, in 2016 and joined the faculty of the École supérieure de ballet du Québec, under the direction of Anik Bissonnette. She was also invited by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens as guest teacher, then as a rehearsal director for the ballet Giselle. The company appointed her ballet mistress in 2020. She holds a master's degree in the art of dance and graduated in dance methodology and pedagogy from the Higher Institute of Art in Havana.