Lemieux-Lopez studied ballet primarily under local teachers Gérald Crevier, Séda Zaré, Marc Beaudet and Elizabeth Leese. She danced on television and attended one NATIONAL BALLET SCHOOL summer program before turning her attention to teaching. She was the first Québecker to receive the Royal Academy of Dancing Advanced Teacher's Certificate (RAD). She also held the Advanced diploma in National Dance awarded by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD).
After her first encounter with cancer in the 1960s, Lemieux-Lopez worked with a sense of urgency. As a classical teacher she developed progressive training methods which relied on anatomical knowledge and the use of mental imaging techniques. Financed by grants, she studied the techniques of ballet teachers in London, Paris, Cannes, New York, Lisbon and Stuttgart. Her work as a teacher included periods with the Canadian College of Dance (1968-71), as principal assistant to Ludmilla CHIRIAEFF at L'École supérieure de danse du Québec, and with LES GRANDS BALLETS CANADIENS. In 1974, while still based in Montréal, she headed the Académie de ballet du Saguenay.
In 1975 Lemieux-Lopez organized the first Québec Été Danse, a three-week intensive summer dance program which offered master classes in ballet, modern dance, jazz and creative dance and was taught by renowned teachers. Evening performances featured stars such as Canadians Karen KAIN and Frank AUGUSTYN and American postmodernist dancer Rudy Perez. She also organized the Octobre en danse festival in Montréal in 1978 which brought together dance artists from across Canada.
In 1975 Lemieux and dancer-choreographer Lawrence GRADUS founded Entre-Six, a chamber ballet company made up of 6 Québec dancers. They ran the company themselves, with Lemieux as administrator and Gradus serving as artistic director and choreographer. On 24 February 1977 they married and Lemieux dropped Lopez from her name.
Entre-Six, which bridged the gap between strict classical ballet and modern dance with its accessible, contemporary ballet fare, was founded partly to educate the public at large regarding dance. Primarily a vehicle for Gradus's own works, the company eventually performed some works by other choreographers. Small and easy to move, Entre-Six toured intensively. Its repertoire, which ranged from the humorous to the abstract but never reflected somber or expressionistic styles, appealed to the general public and received positive reviews at home and abroad. Another original initiative of Entre-Six was its children's program with activities for youngsters before and after the show. With funding from both provincial and federal sources, the company was able to pay its dancers 52 weeks a year by forgoing elaborate sets and by making dancers' salaries their top priority. There was strong team spirit among dancers and staff and in the 5 years between its founding in 1975 and 1980, when it ceased activities, Entre-Six gave more than 500 performances throughout Canada, the United States and even Europe.
Jacqueline Lemieux served as vice-president of the Dance in Canada Association in 1979 having been a board member from 1975 to 1979 and was a member of the advisory board of the CANADA COUNCIL from 1976 to 1979. In 1980 the Canada Council created the Jacqueline Lemieux Award, honouring her outstanding contribution to Canadian dance.
Respected and loved by the dance milieu for her dynamism, generosity and spirit of entrepreneurship, Jacqueline Lemieux died from a recurrence of cancer. Her commitment to all types of dance, which she promoted in Québec and throughout Canada, helped build a public for subsequent generations.
Author IRO VALASKAKIS-TEMBECK