Stéphane Léonard joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company in 1998 as a soloist –after dancing with the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto, and with the Rimsky-Korsakov Company in St. Petersberg, Russia – and retired in 2003. After his retirement, he didn’t want to leave dance and knew that becoming a teacher was a natural fit for him.
“I like to direct, coordinate and create shows. I was looking forward to teaching,” Mr. Léonard says.
As luck would have it a position was open for him at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, where he had been teaching as a substitute. Mr. Léonard joined the artistic faculty, taking on the role of the Aspirant Program Director.
Mr. Léonard says he particularly enjoys this role as he is able to work closely with the RWB Company, as many of the Aspirants are often cast in its full-length classical ballet productions. A large part of Mr. Léonard’s work is assisting students who are finishing their dance training and transitioning into professional dancers.
“I am able to bring the various experiences I’ve had from the diverse companies I’ve danced with throughout my career and share them with my students,” Mr. Léonard says.
“A large part of choreographing for In Concert is reworking existing repertoire so that it can accommodate all of the students in the School. This year’s performance, La Fille Mal Gardée, had to be almost completely re-created,” Mr. Léonard says. “While the main line of the story remains, we created a dream section, approximately 20 minutes of classical ballet, which is different from the style of the rest of the show.”
Stéphane says one of the things he enjoys most about his role is the challenge of creating works like La Fille Mal Gardée .
“I build the performances with students in mind. Some things have to be re-arranged to create dance specifically for them – each year the School changes and the performances need to be created for the levels of dancers that are there. It’s fun and challenging to find the right fit,” Stéphane says.
The RWB School Professional Division will present La Fille Mal Gardée from May 14-17 at the Shaw Performing Arts Centre at MTYP and On the Edge on May 29 at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre + Film. Be sure to check out La Bayadère: Kingdom of the Shades + Ballet Vignettes as part of RWB’s 2014/15 season. For more information on these performances go to rwb.org or call 204-956-2792.