Do you know Jean-Jacques Pillet, the volunteer who has been with us since the very beginning of D'Arts et de rêves? If you visit our website, (DAR Team) you’ll discover that he is not only a member of the Artistic Committee, but also a director, choreographer, and former artistic director at the Cirque du Soleil. Be aware, however, that this is but a brief glimpse of a person that we cannot do without at D'Arts et de rêves...
As a child...
Jean-Jacques was very young when he started dancing. He used to drive his father crazy because he would play music and have the time of his life dancing, leaping into the air, stepping around the dining room and living room of his parents' apartment, a large open space that served as his playground, if not his dance studio: this irritated his father, a respected pastry chef, confectioner, chocolatier, and ice cream maker whose shop was on the ground floor of the building, directly under the apartment. It was not only the music that disturbed his father, but Jean-Jacques running, jumping, and dancing made the spotlights on the ceiling of the shop shake: rather annoying when you serve a distinguished Bordeaux clientele. Jean-Jacques nonetheless continued to create choreographies in his head and dance on the wooden floors upstairs; he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
Jean-Jacques' father was rather sensitive to what others thought or said about him, so accepting that his son became a dancer was not an option until a good friend who knew the world of professional dance said, "Why not let him take ballet classes? Come what may..." As a result, when he was 15 ½ years old, Jean-Jacques began his dream life as a dancer.
He must have had quite some talent because at 18 years of age, Jean-Jacques signed his first contract and officially became a "dancer" at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse. This was his first professional experience and there would be many others, as his biography on his website shows. jeanjacquespillet.com
From France to Quebec
In 1987, at the age of 21, Jean-Jacques set out to discover Canada, chose to settle in Montreal, and from there began an international career. Let’s keep it simple: dancer from 18 to 30 years of age; then creator; artistic director; choreographer; circus, television, theater, and cinema director; artistic associate and dance teacher; author of a book of poetry, of a musical, of two screenplays... and people keep knocking on his door, his reputation precedes him and his projects delight people on all continents.
Then Sutton and its bucolic countryside came calling and Jean-Jacques left Montreal in 2014.
Which brings us to D'Arts et de rêves
On a beautiful summer day in 2015, Jean-Jacques went for a walk with a friend on the site of 57 North, Principale Street, Sutton. That is where he met Nicole Côté, the co-founder of D'Arts et de rêves (the project had not yet been officially launched). He greets her, talks about the beauty of the environment, and the site. Chatting with him, Nicole learns that he is an artist and that he has worked in the circus world. Nicole is delighted with this encounter, especially since the circus arts are, along with the visual arts and the literary arts, the three disciplines for which Nicole has created this project.
"Do you know Joanie Leroux-Côté?" Nicole asks him. “Joanie used to work for Cirque du Soleil, she is now with Les Sept doigts de la main (now Les 7 Doigts), and is one of the three co-founders of the project that is taking shape here.” No, Jean-Jacques doesn't know Joanie, so Nicole offers to put them in touch.
One thing leads to another and Jean-Jacques becomes attached to D'Arts et de rêves. He agrees to be part of the Artistic Committee and to help make the concept of an artists’ residence a reality, with all that it entails. He teamed up with Suzanne Pressé, visual arts, a friend whom he had the pleasure of meeting again, and France Mongeau, literary arts, a poet and now a good friend whose work he admires. The three of them will define the image they want to project of the DAR artists’ residence.
What will be the parameters, the criteria; do we want to welcome accomplished artists, emerging artists; how does one go about it to be recognized by the CALQ (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec) so that artists in residence can be eligible for grants; what will be the welcoming conditions, the length of stay, the cost of staying in the residence; what will be provided on site; what will be the responsibilities of D'Arts et de rêves and what about those of the resident artists; what is to be included in the contract; what about insurance issues; what should be the eligibility requirements for a residency application; how to apply; what should be attached to the application; what criteria are to be met to be accepted as a member of the selection committee; determine the selection criteria by discipline... In short, a lot of work was done by Jean-Jacques, Suzanne, and France in order to come up with the first call for applications for residencies at the DAR Studios.
Then a big step was taken in 2021 with the establishment of a scholarship program, a project made possible by generous donors who understood the need and gladly contributed to the scholarship fund. Artists’ residencies around the world offer a scholarship program: it’s an important principle and it had to be done right. The first scholarship recipients completed their residencies this fall. To be continued…
This year, as part of the annual MusArt fundraiser, donors were given privileged access to the short film Le Sentier, written and directed by Jean-Jacques.
The pandemic led Jean-Jacques to conceive this script: a story revolving around an aristocrat who has lost everything, her love, her reason for being, her life, and who seeks refuge in the forest. She therefore finds herself alone, unprotected, in a place she doesn't know, without her usual landmarks; she dives deep into herself, lets herself be carried by her emotions to find herself and finally be reborn.
This film of great poetry, with stunning imagery, was made possible thanks to the collaboration of many talented artists from the circus, music, and film industries; of many volunteers from the region; of children who were able to discover what it was like to make a film; and of the DAR team who believed in and supported the project. All who participated were delighted with their experience.
What's next for this short film? It will be presented at film festivals. Another story to follow...
D'Arts et de rêves is an extraordinary site, says Jean-Jacques. It must exploited wisely. Little by little, we should develop self-sufficiency by making best use of the outdoor amphitheatre. We could become an event promoter in this magnificent cultural park, offering free activities as has been the case up until now and planning paid activities to ensure the sustainability of D'Arts et de rêves, its artists' residence, and the cultural park. The Projet Sanctuaire show on July 10, 2021 attracted nearly 250 persons. There are many circus artists in Quebec who just ask for a place to perform.
Then, Jean-Jacques insists, we should develop partnerships, seek sponsorships, for example, to cover the costs related to the one-off or seasonal installation of a Berber tent that would shelter the artists and spectators during shows in the amphitheatre.
And by-products... This is a possible source of revenue that we could also tap into. Seizing every opportunity to give a second life to everything related to D'Arts et de rêves. To achieve this, we will have to use our creativity and let our imaginations run wild... We will will gladly welcome all your suggestions...
Jean-Jacques is a visionary artist, creative, voluble, generous, as proven by his commitment to D'Arts et de rêves for the past six years. It was a pleasure talking with him and getting to know him a bit better in order to write this tribute to a remarkable volunteer.