Francoise Riopelle, 1927-2022 |  The choreographer who signed Refus global disappears

Francoise Riopelle, 1927-2022 | The choreographer who signed Refus global disappears

Françoise Riopelle, first wife of Jean Paul Riopelle and signer of the manifesto blanket denial, died Monday at the Jewish General Hospital at the age of 95, according to his family. The artist left his mark on Canadian contemporary dance, notably by creating the country’s first modern dance school.

Posted at 9:30 am
Updated at 5:02 pm

eric clement

eric clement

Lucas Boulanger

Lucas Boulanger

Dancer, choreographer, teacher and director, Françoise Riopelle was the inspiration for the new dance long before the wave of this movement took hold of a whole new generation of Quebec artists. Something forgotten for several decades, her legacy to new generations of artists and choreographers is immense.

“She was a strong and determined woman who gave a lot to dance in Quebec, as well as being a good friend,” Françoise Sullivan said. Press, when they broke the news to him on Tuesday morning. With the death of Françoise Riopelle, Mme Sullivain is also one of the last signatories of the overall denial alive (with Madeleine Arbour). “I even met Françoise before overall denial », specifies the 99-year-old artist. The two women have often worked together on creations, including with the Groupe Nouvelle Aire.

Ms. Sullivan reminds us that her choreographies were broadcast on television in concert time, a prestigious cultural program on Radio-Canada in the 1950s and 1960s. “Its choreographic language was particular, very precise,” he explains. At that time, she Françoise already saw dance as a dialogue between the arts and the disciplines. As a choreographer she has created very innovative pieces. »

Daniel Soulières, the founder of Danse Cité, reminds us that Riopelle was on the company’s board in the early 1980s. “She helped me a lot in structuring the company. She previously had also taught me a lot as an interpreter. She thought it was important that each dancer reached the end of her emotional state. In rehearsals, she rejected all academic language. She rejected that a dancer repeat movements or codes learned in other places. We had to invent our own gestures. Do pure creation. It is working with the two Françoises [Riopelle et Sullivan] that I have gained confidence as an interpreter. »

Former performer and dance consultant Sylvianne Martineau adds that her greatest legacy is “the strong bond she forged between dance and theater in Quebec.” And that she allowed us to transport ourselves to the glorious years of Carbone 14, O Vertigo and the Jean-Pierre Perreault company. In addition, Riopelle brought in Perreault (then with the Groupe de la Place Royale) as a visiting artist-professor at UQAM. “The latter will create Josephits great success”, reminds us Martineau.

“Françoise Riopelle has abandoned the academicism of formal and abstract dance to offer a more emotional and dramatic dance”, she continues. It is thanks to Françoise Riopelle that the UQAM dance module was separated from the theater module to later become an independent department that trained Virginie Brunelle, Frédérick Gravel, Catherine Gaudet, Hélène Blackburn, Hélène Langevin, among others. »

Paris and overall denial

Born in 1927 in Montreal, Françoise Lespérance was the sister of Jean Lespérance, Jean Paul Riopelle’s childhood best friend. She began dating Riopelle in 1943. They ended up getting married on October 30, 1946 at Montreal’s Immaculée-Conception church. Françoise Lespérance is a minor (19 years old) when she gets married. Her parents force the couple to join the church…even though she doesn’t believe in God. When Riopelle died in 2002, she boycotted the religious ceremony, finding it inappropriate, but watched it on television.

Their religious marriage still has its good sides. He enabled the couple to pay for their trip to Paris in 1947, thanks to the sale of the house they had received as a wedding present from Riopelle’s father. In Paris, Françoise Riopelle supports her husband in her quest for notoriety. She raises her daughters Yseult and Sylvie and discovers the Parisian art community. Their union will last 11 years, until Riopelle falls in love with the American painter Joan Mitchell, in 1955.

Meanwhile, the manifest overall denial it was launched in Montreal in 1948. Françoise Riopelle was one of the 16 signers of the text considered to be the spark plug of modern Quebec. She later developed a passion for the arts, especially dance, which at the time was considered a sin by the Quebec Catholic Church.

“We were going to lose our soul there,” he told Press in 1998. overall denial it has opened doors in the direction of greater respect for the artist. Previously, the artist was a hooligan, a lazy bum who did not want to work. When Riopelle came to paint in my parents’ basement, my aunt, who was a poet and member of the Society of Poets, was outraged. She said, “That’s a painting from hell!” »

the revolt

Passionate, Françoise Riopelle is still intimidated by her Automatist friends. “In our group meetings, he didn’t say much,” she said. Press in 2013. I was there and supported Riopelle. Borduas was still like a family man and, in my head, he was a bit of a shame. Rebelling against something as powerful as the clergy, he had to feel strong. But since I stayed in France for 10 years then, I didn’t realize the changes that followed. »

If it may seem that Françoise Riopelle was in the shadow of her prestigious signatory comrades, the Bordua, Riopelle, Leduc or Barbeau, she played an important role within the group with the other six women of overall denialincluding Madeleine Arbor and Françoise Sullivan.

“Madeleine Arbour, Françoise Riopelle and the other women embodied the revolutionary message of the manifesto better than the men,” Patricia Smart, a professor of literature at Carleton University, told the magazine. News, in 1998. They took art out of galleries to install it in everyday life. »

It was the moment when the women of Quebec wanted to take charge of themselves and gain true freedom. “I fully lived the questions about love, Françoise Riopelle told Press in 1998. We think that once love ends, you start something else. In the eyes of my parents, it was unacceptable. Marriage, they believed, bound you for life. My father was a very understanding man. He followed our movement with great interest, but also fear. »

First contemporary dance school

After separating from Riopelle, who remained in Paris, Françoise devoted herself, from 1958, to her daughters and to dance. With Jeanne Renaud, Françoise Riopelle founded the Groupe de danse moderne de Montréal in 1961, the first Canadian school dedicated to contemporary dance.


Francoise Riopelle, June 12, 1961

Françoise Riopelle worked a lot with her then-partner, the composer Pierre Mercure, with whom she had a son, Patrick, in 1961. The latter writes experimental electronic music while creating avant-garde choreographies, which the couple presents at the International Week of Current Music festival , which allows Françoise Riopelle to be in contact with Merce Cunningham and John Cage.

During her career, she will have other enriching encounters, notably with dancers Martha Graham and Mary Wigman and dancers Winifred Widener and Alwin Nikolais. She has also worked on several projects with Ontario composer Murray Schafer, including the opera Youwhich he choreographed and which was broadcast on Radio-Canada television in 1966, as were other of his choreographies, such as available shapesin 1965.

After Mercure’s death, Françoise Riopelle was the wife of Canadian pianist, composer and arranger Neil Chotem, who wrote music for his choreographies. In 1969 she began teaching dance classes at the theater faculty of the new UQAM where she later founded the Moviles group to integrate acting and dance. In 1979 she opened the Regroupement Théâtre et Danse at UQAM, which she developed with Ninon Gauthier, a year after founding the group of independent choreographers Qui danse? with Dena Davida.

Furthermore, Daniel Soulières is surprised that when we talk about Françoise Riopelle we associate her a lot with the three great men with whom she shared her life. “The woman I met was an artist, creator and manager in her own right. She owes her long and excellent career to her vision and her ability to work. She was not in the shadow of anyone. »

Strong, inspired and often rebellious, Françoise Riopelle has always wanted to be free, both in action and in thought. In 1988 she had refused to participate in the celebrations of the 40me birthday blanket denial. “I, my global rejection, affirmed it every day of my life. I never stopped dreaming,” she said daily. Sun10 years later, during the 50th anniversary of the manifesto.

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