Anik Bissonnette, OC, CQ, ballerina, arts administrator (born at Montréal 9 Feb 1962). Québec's best-known ballerina, Anik Bissonnette is renowned for her exceptional musicality, purity of line and extraordinary balances, and for using her technical assurance to plumb exciting emotional depths. After garnering wide acclaim in many performances with Louis Robitaille, she was a principal dancer at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (LGBC) from 1989 to 2007 and made annual appearances at Montréal's Gala des Étoiles from 1983 until 2006. She was artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur from 2004 to 2014, and has been artistic director of the École supérière de ballet contemporain de Montréal since 2010. An Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalière of the National Order of Québec, she has received the Prix Denis Pelletier and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Early Years and Training
Bissonnette began her studies in classical ballet at the École de danse Eddy Toussaint in Montréal at the age of 12 (see Eddy Toussaint). She joined Le Ballet de Montréal Eddy Toussaint five years later along with her identical twin, Sophie.
Immediately paired with Toussaint’s star, Louis Robitaille, Bissonnette began dancing leading roles. Critical praise for her sensitivity and technique quickly followed. Her cool, unruffled plasticity was a perfect foil for Robitaille’s visceral partnering. The two became celebrated in Québec, especially for their interpretations of ballets with folk themes, such as Rose Latulippe.
Bissonnette’s early career was closely linked with that of Robitaille, to whom she was married from 1986 to 2001. In 1984, at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition, they won a gold medal for choreographer Toussaint by dancing his Un Simple Moment. Bissonnette began her career as an independent guest artist with Robitaille in 1986–87, making appearances at Spoleto Festival galas in Charleston, South Carolina, Spoleto, Italy, and Melbourne, Australia.
In 1988, again with Robitaille, she danced Giselle with the Odessa Ballet in Odessa, Ukraine. By 1989, however, she was performing with other international stars. That year she partnered with the Paris Opera’s Laurent Hilaire in Swan Lake, while also performing Romeo and Juliet with Robitaille at the Ballets du Capitol in Toulouse, France. She returned to Toulouse in 1992 to dance with another Paris Opera étoile, Eric Vu An.
Bissonnette joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (LGBC) in 1989 and became lead dancer in 1990. Between 1983 and 2006, she made 22 annual appearances at Montréal's Gala des Étoiles. She also toured the world with this company of international stars. Her diverse repertorie with LGBC included La Chatte (George Balanchine), The Nutcracker (Fernand Nault), Coppelia (Enrique Martinez), Allegro Brillante and Stravinsky Violin Concerto (Balanchine), Urlicht (William Forsythe), Without Words (Nacho Duato) and Stepping Stones (Jirí Kylián).
She originated one of the leading roles in James Kudelka's Désir (1991) and in 2001 originated the role of Lisa in Kim Brandstrup’s The Queen of Spades. As LGBC’s reigning prima in this ballet, she used her technical assurance to plumb exciting emotional depths with a new partner, Mário Radakovský, with whom she performed favourite works. Invited by ballet legend Carla Fracci, Bissonnette and Radakovský danced La Chatte at the Rome Opera in 2005.
Career as Arts Administrator
Although she retired from LGBC in 2007, Bissonnette continued to dance at galas throughout the world. In 2004, she was appointed artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur where, the following year, she produced Kylian Le Grand, a unique evening of filmed interviews and dance along with live dance honouring Czech choreographer-director Jirí Kylián.
From 2004 to 2010, Bissonnette was president of the Regroupement québecois de la danse, an organization that represents and advocates on behalf of all professional dancers in the province. She joined Édouard Lock’s La La La Human Steps as company director in 2008, and left in 2010, to become artistic director of the École supérieure de ballet contemporain de Montréal. She served her final year as artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur in 2014.
Bissonnette’s many career accolades include the award for Best Performance at the Porsche Canada Dance International and two People’s Choice awards at the Budapest Ballet Gala. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995 for having “contributed enormously to the development of classical dance both in Canada and internationally.” That same year, she was featured in Yvon Brochu’s, En Plein Coeur, a book about four notable young Québeckers.
Bissonnette was made a Chevalière in the the National Order of Québec in 1996 and received the Prix Denise Pelletier, Québec's prestigious performing arts award, in 2008. She received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals in 2002 and 2012, respectively, and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2014. In 2005, she was praised by the American dance magazine Pointe as one of the international dance community’s most impressive artists.