Robert Desrosiers © Lilya Sultanova

Robert Desrosiers, the Montréal-born dancer, choreographer, and director, has gained international renown as a choreographer of startling imagination and originality.

As an independent dance artist he worked with Felix Blaska, Dancemakers, Lindsay Kemp, Hugo Romeo, and Toronto Dance Theatre. His collaborations with renowned Canadian artists include work with Anne Bourne, Eric Cadesky, Neve Campbell, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, Jesse Cook, Toller Cranston, Cheryl Lalonde, John Lang, Claudia Moore, Jerrard Smith, Dan Solomon, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

Early in his career he began to develop his own choreographic style, and he founded the Toronto-based Desrosiers Dance Theatre in 1980. In 1985 he accepted a commission from Eric Bruhn for The National Ballet of Canada. The result was Blue Snake, a work renowned for its fantastical mechanized sets, complex choreography, and brilliant sculptural costumes. It was subsequently performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and was featured in Robert Altman’s motion picture The Company (2002), with dancers from the Joffrey Ballet, and starring Canadian actress Neve Campbell.

In 1986 he created a major theatrical multimedia spectacle entitled Lumière. His 1988 Incognito, a full-length dance work done in a surrealistic mode, was commissioned by the Calgary Olympic Arts Festival and later remounted at City Centre in New York. His White Clouds was a commission by The National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Inspired by the beauty of choral music, Desrosiers created Vivaldi’s Sacred Songs in 1997. More commissioned works have been created for Ballet Jörgen of Canada, the Lyons Opera Ballet, and Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers. His choreography has been performed across North and South America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

In 2016, Desrosiers undertook to create a new, full-length work entitled Timeframe / À Travers Le Temps, which was performed on the National Arts Centre Theatre stage as part of that year’s Canada Dance Festival.

Desrosiers worked with graduating dancers from four nationally recognized contemporary dance training programs. The participating schools included L’École de danse de Québec (Québec), The School of Contemporary Dancers (Winnipeg), The School of Dance (Ottawa), and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Spanning time from the 15th century to the present, Timeframe wove together 50 dancers from the four programs, with Desrosiers’ unique and characteristic vision, style, and imagination. He created a map of dance-theatre spectacle for the audience to follow on this whimsical journey through the ages. Desrosiers says, “Using music from different eras, I was inspired to create a dance that travels through the centuries.”

For each group, he created a unique work to be performed in their home city; the four new pieces were joined together in Ottawa, to become the final full-length creation. This celebratory debut of the next generation of professional contemporary dance artists has become a tradition at the Festival, and has featured the work of nationally and internationally renowned choreographers. Desrosiers’ name thus joins an illustrious list, including Ginette Laurin, Jean-Pierre Perreault, Harold Rhéaume, and Tedd Robinson.