Closing a cycle dedicated to the four elements, this year’s Earth edition shines the spotlight on trailblazing women dancers and choreographers from around the world.

The biannual Cannes Dance Festival has become a staple and an early highlight in the cultural season, and since 2013 has borne the signature of Brigitte Lefèvre, one of the greatest contemporary French choreographers and artistic directors. After starting a cycle on the theme of the four “elements” in 2015, the former ballerina and long-term director of the Paris Opera Ballet now devotes its fourth and final part to Earth, celebrating women. This new edition from November 27 through December 11, presents a firework of creativity, bringing together 28 French and international companies in 15 creations, including four world premieres.

The 2021 edition of the Festival de Danse de Cannes is a kaleidoscope of women that made dance history, as symbolized by its poster: “The powerful and volcanic woman depicted on it is a testament to the theme,” Mme. Lefèvre explains. “This dancer from the Martha Graham Dance Company sums up in many ways the editorial line of this event, dedicated particularly to those women pioneers who have made a major contribution to the invention of modern and contemporary dance by rooting their gestures in the ground.”

Cannes Dance Festival

The honour of opening the festival therefore goes to the Martha Graham Dance Company from New York – the only show in France this year, by the way, which marks the 30th anniversary of the death of this icon of American modern dance.

The programme goes on to juxtapose classic and contemporary dance. It revisits the romantic ballet with La Sylphide, peeks into the work of emerging choreographers like Balkis Moutashar and Eugénie Andrin, and pays homage to the great stars in the world of dance. Topical film music from ballroom dance to Pedro Almodóvar movies presents yet another facet of the Terpsichorean art. And finally, the festival takes a look across borders to show the universality of dance: in Honji Wang’s creation, three women each embody different cultures.
Luminaries cross paths with each others: Jérôme Bel offers a portrait of Isadora Duncan, an iconic figure of modern dance. Dominique Brun recreates legendary works by Bronislava Nijinska and Vaslav Nijinsky (Les Noces, Le Sacre du printemps) including a Bolero with François Chaignaud. The Malandain Ballet Biarritz presents a new version of The Rite of Spring recreated by Martin Harriague, while Thierry Malandain performs his interpretation of The Firebird, originally written by Michel Fokine. And along the same lines of Classic Meets Contemporary, the CCN Ballet de Lorraine confronts the radicalism of Merce Cunningham, one of the icons of the 20th century, and his worthy successor Maud Le Pladec.

With this rejuvenation, the festival also wants to pique the interest of the younger generation of spectators, and to honor Cannes’ regional companies and their remarkable creative dynamism. It was in Cannes, after all, that the world-renowned Rosella Hightower International Dance Center was founded. Mayor David Lisnard – the son of a primaballerina himself – would love to see the region’s artistic spirit continue to grow. To this end, the Cannes-Côte d’Azur Dance Festival also started sharing the two-week event with venues in neighbouring communities in 2019.

While the main event is taking place at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes, Anthéa (Antibes), Forum Jacques Prévert (Carros), Scène 55 (Mougins), Théâtre de Grasse, Théâtres en Dracénie (Draguignan), Théâtre La Licorne (Cannes), Théâtre National de Nice, Théâtre intercommunal Le Forum (Fréjus), and many other venues all host shows. Numerous off-stage events from conferences to master classes and TikTok contests complement the stage programme.

Brigitte Lefèvre Cannes Dance Festival

This edition marks la Maestra Brigitte Lefèvre’s final biennale as the artistic director of the Cannes Dance Festival. In 2023, she will be succeeded by Didier Deschamps, who has been the director of Chaillot–Théâtre national de la Danse for 10 years until April 2021.

Additional information on the shows and artists, as well as director’s notes can be found in the festival programme.

For show venues and times, pricing and booking information, visit the Festival’s official website.

All sanitary measures in force at the time of your visit apply.


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Lead image – photo of Marzia Memoli in Martha Graham’s Steps in the Street © Hibbard Nash Photography (edited – cropped); photo of Brigitte Lefèvre © Palais des Festivals et des Congrès Cannes

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