Françoise Riopelle, 1927-2022 | The choreographer who signed Refus globally disappears

Françoise Riopelle, first wife of Jean Paul Riopelle and signatory of the Manifesto Global rejectionAccording to her family, she died on Monday at the Jewish General Hospital at the age of 95. The dancer and choreographer has made her mark on the Canadian contemporary dance community, most notably by founding the first modern dance school in Canada.

Posted at 9:30am

Eric Clemens

Eric Clemens
The press

Born in Montreal in 1927, Françoise Lespérance was the sister of Jean Lespérance, Jean Paul Riopelle’s childhood best friend. She began dating Riopelle in 1943. They were eventually married on October 30, 1946 at the Immaculée Conception Church in Montreal, where Riopelle was baptized and where his funeral took place in 2002.

Françoise Lespérance is a minor (19 years old) when she marries. Her parents force the couple to unite in church…even though she doesn’t believe in God. When Riopelle died, she boycotted the religious ceremony, finding it inappropriate but watched it on television.

Their church marriage still has its good points. Thanks to the sale of the house, which they had received as a wedding present from Riopelle’s father, the couple was able to pay for the trip to Paris in December 1947. In Paris, Françoise Riopelle supports her husband in his quest for fame. She raises her daughters Yseult and Sylvie and discovers the Parisian art scene. Their relationship lasted eleven years until Riopelle fell in love with the American painter Joan Mitchell in 1955.

Meanwhile, the manifesto Global rejection was launched in Montreal in 1948. Françoise Riopelle was one of the 16 signatories of the text that is seen as the spark plug for modern Quebec. She then had a passion for the arts, particularly dance, which was then considered a sin by the Quebec Catholic Church.

“We would lose our souls there,” she said The press In 1998. Global rejection has opened doors to greater respect for the artist. The artist used to be a hooligan, a slacker who didn’t want to work. When Riopelle came to my parents’ basement to paint, my aunt, who was a poet and a member of the Society of Poets, was outraged. She said, “It’s a painting from Hell!

Passionate Françoise Riopelle is still intimidated by her Automatist friends. “I didn’t say much in our group meetings,” she said The press 2013. I was there and supported Riopelle. Borduas was still like a family man and in my mind it was a bit embarrassing. To stand up against something as powerful as the clergy, you had to feel strong. But then, as I stayed in France for 10 years, I was unaware of the following changes. »

Although Françoise Riopelle seems to have been in the shadow of her prestigious signatories Borduas, Riopelle, Leduc or Barbeau, she played an important role within the group along with the other six women Global rejectionincluding 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, professor of literature at Carleton University, told the magazine. news, in 1998. They took art from the galleries to install in everyday life. »

It was the time when Quebec women wanted to take responsibility for themselves and gain real freedom. “I fully lived the questions about love,” said Françoise Riopelle The press 1998. We thought that when love is over, you start with something else. In the eyes of my parents, that was unacceptable. They believed the marriage was binding for life. My father was a very understanding man. He followed our movement with great interest, but also with fear. »


After separating from Riopelle, who remained in Paris, Françoise devoted herself to her daughters and to dance from 1958. She played a key role in the development of modern dance in Quebec in the early 1960s, having taught dance in Paris from 1956-1958.

Together with Jeanne Renaud, Françoise Riopelle founded the Groupe de danse modern de Montréal in 1961, the first Canadian school for contemporary dance.


Françoise Riopelle, June 12, 1961

Françoise Riopelle was particularly interested in costumes, sets and music. She worked extensively with her partner at the time, the composer Pierre Mercure. He writes experimental electronic music while creating avant-garde choreographies. In 1961 Mercure organized a festival, the International Week of Current Music, which allowed Françoise Riopelle to come into contact with the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham and the composer John Cage.

She will have other enriching encounters throughout her career, most 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 she choreographed and which was televised by Radio-Canada in 1966, like other of her choreographies such as Available Shapes1965

Since 1968, Françoise Riopelle was the wife of the Canadian pianist, composer and arranger Neil Chotem, who wrote the music for his choreographies. In 1969 she began teaching dance in the theater department of the new UQAM, where she later founded the group Mobiles to integrate acting and dance. In 1979, the Regroupement Théâtre et Danse she had developed with Ninon Gauthier was inaugurated at UQAM, a year after she founded the collective of independent choreographers Qui danse? with Dena Davida.

Strong, inspired and often rebellious, Françoise Riopelle has always wanted to be free, both in action and in thought. In 1988, she refused to attend the 40th birthday celebrationse birthday Global rejection. “Me, my global denial, I’ve reiterated it every day of my life. I never stopped dreaming,” she said daily The sun10 years later, during the 50th anniversary of the Manifesto.

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