May RWB Spotlight

May 24 2018 | Posted in Spotlight

Headshot of Tara Birtwhistle

RWB appoints Tara Birtwhistle, advances 5 dancers and welcomes 5 new names

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is proud to announce that it has appointed Tara Birtwhistle as Associate Artistic Director of the RWB, effective July 1. In this new role, Birtwhistle will work closely with André Lewis, RWB Artistic Director and CEO, to manage the artistic operations of the internationally renowned ballet company. This announcement is made alongside the promotion of five company dancers and the addition of five new dancers, totaling 25 company dancers for the 2018-19 season.

A graduate of the RWB School Professional Division, Birtwhistle danced with the Company for 20 years, the last 12 as Principal Dancer. In 2011 she retired from dance to take on the role of Ballet Master with the RWB. During her career as a dancer she performed roles in new works and revivals across the RWB repertoire. Most notably, she collaborated with choreographer Mark Godden to create the role of Lucy in RWB’s Dracula, performing the role for audiences across North America and internationally. As Ballet Master, Birtwhistle prepares the Company for performances; a process that involves working with choreographers and training, coaching and mentoring dancers.

Among the many accolades behind her name, Birtwhistle was designated “One of 100 Young Canadians to Watch in the New Millennium” in Maclean’s magazine, and has received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Birtwhistle was also nominated for a Gemini Award for her stunning performance in Guy Maddin’s Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary, a screen adaptation of the ballet.

RWB is also proud to announce the promotion of Chenxin Liu from second soloist to soloist, Saeka Shirai, Yue Shi, and Ryan Vetter’s promotion from corps de ballet to second soloist, and Liam Saito’s promotion from apprentice to corps de ballet.

The RWB welcomes Erika Delponte, who most recently danced with the National Ballet of Canada, to the corps de ballet, along with Peter-Nicholas Taylor from Ballet Victoria. Erin Atkinson, Katie Simpson, and Kolbie Edwards from the RWB School Professional Division’s Aspirant Program join the company as apprentices.

RWB School presents Coppélia—A comedy of mistaken identity

Photo of Professional Division Students in Coppélia

A toymaker, a doll, and an admirer’s paths intertwine in Coppélia, the light-hearted, endearing ballet featured in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division’s Spotlight. Running from May 24-26 at the John Hirsch Mainstage of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Spotlight features nearly 100 student performers and is the culmination of the tireless work these young dancers put in each year.

Coppélia is based on a story by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann and was first presented at the Théatre de l’Opéra in Paris on May 25, 1870 with music by Leó Delibes. This full-length ballet dubbed as “classical ballet’s greatest comedy” was originally choreographed by the legendary Arthur Saint-Léon. The version presented at Spotlight has been staged and choreographed by the RWB School Professional Division Artistic Faculty.

Though it first premiered well over a century ago, it has been argued that this comedy of mistaken identity is the first “feminist” ballet. Coppélia eventually became the most-performed ballet at the Paris Opera Ballet, but has never been performed in full by the RWB Company!

Set in a small European town from centuries past, Coppélia is the fanciful tale of soon-to-be wed Franz who falls in love with Coppélia, an irresistible young girl who, unknown to him, is a life-sized dancing doll created by the nefarious inventor, Doctor Coppélius. Swanilda, Franz’s wife-to-be, becomes increasingly jealous of this budding love affair between Coppélia and her lover. One night as Doctor Coppélius leaves his home, Swanilda and her friends sneak into his mysterious workshop to speak to Coppélia. Just as they discover the shocking truth about Coppélia, they are forced to flee the scene as Doctor Coppélius returns, enraged to find intruders in his home. Swanilda, however, does not manage to escape and resorts to dressing up as Coppélia to both dupe Dr. Coppélius into thinking his doll has come to life and to win over the heart of her beloved Franz. Comic chaos ensues!

Tickets for Spotlight are $25-30, plus taxes and fees, and can be purchased online at rwb.org, in person through the RWB Customer Service Office at 380 Graham Avenue or by calling 204.956.2792 or toll free 1.800.667.4792.

Standing Ovations for Carmina Burana!

Photo of RWB Company Dancers in Carmina Burana

The Winnipeg crowd went wild for more than just the Jets this May! We were thrilled to present our May mixed-repertoire performance to such an ecstatic crowd. Thank you to those who attended and to those who reached out through our social media. Read below for comments and click here to read the Winnipeg Free Press’ 4.5-star review.

FACEBOOK

  • “Carmina Burana was fabulous and deserving of the standing ovation! My favourite ballet. It was nice to see the theatre almost full for this show. Please do more mixed repertoire shows! Would love to see Strike Up The Band, Rodeo, Ecstasy of Rita Joe, Fall River Legend and so many more.” –Jean Riggall
  • “This was a stunning performance; I enjoyed every minute and would happily see it again. (and again). Brilliant!” –Jill Brooks
  • “Breathtaking! Beautiful! It was so intense… shed some tears..” –Christel Dumas Teyssier
  • “Such an incredible show! Loved every second of it.” –Yasmeen K. Rattan
  • “This is one of my all time favorites done by the RWB. I was lucky enough to see it live when Tara Birtwhistle was a principal dancer with the company. So excited for Winnipeg that it is back. Wish I was there!! Enjoy.” –Deborah Krauss

INSTAGRAM

  • “For Bye and About was a great new work! I hope to see more from Philippe Larouche.” -@reluctantredhead
  • “Thank you for all 3 outstanding “Mixed Performances”!” -@g_l_connor
  • “It was absolutely stunning. Goose bumps.” -@saraesp1

TWITTER

  • “Unbelievable performance of Carmina Burana @RWBallet with my beloved @WpgSymphony & U of M Singers & Winnipeg Boys Choir. Tomorrow is the last chance to see this masterpiece right here in Winnipeg. Beautiful!” -@annex_girl
  • “Wow! Words can barely express just how powerful &visceral @RWBallet‘s Carmina Burana w/Serenade truly is! Blown away by the high caliber of talent -dancers, musicians, singers,costumes & staging. I can’t recommend this exceptional show enough. #Winnipeg #RWBCarminaBurana” -@michelle373737
  • “Definitely one of the best things coming through #Winnipeg this weekend. @RWBallet Carmina Burana at the @Concert_Hall Wed – Sun” -@janepuchniak

Mark your calendars, On the Edge takes the stage June 6-8

Photo of RWB PD Student in On the Edge 2017

On the Edge, the RWB School Professional Division’s year-end performance, runs from June 6-8 at the RWB’s Founders Studio at 380 Graham Avenue and showcases dancers on the verge of being hired into international professional dance companies.

This year’s production features 8 pieces of repertoire including the World Premiere of Solace, a piece by RWB School alumnus and up-and-coming choreographer Jera Wolfe, as well as choreography by RWB Company soloist Yosuke Mino and RWB School artistic faculty member Philippe-Alexandre Jacques.

This performance by RWB School Aspirants gives audiences a front-row seat to experience the passion and intensity of these young artists during a diverse programme of solos, pas de deux, and ensembles of every composition. The Aspirant Program, under the Direction of Stéphane Léonard, is where new company dancers are born. After years of training, these talented artists are on the threshold of careers with the RWB and eminent companies around the world. On the Edge is your chance to see them first!

Tickets to Friday’s performance are already sold out! Don’t delay on getting your tickets to the Thursday or Saturday shows. On the Edge tickets are $24-$30 and can be purchased online at rwb.org, in person through the RWB Customer Service Office at 380 Graham Avenue or by calling 204.956.2792.

Thank you for another successful Ballet Ball!

Photo of RWB Ballet Ball Attendees

On April 28, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet invited guests to dine with RWB Company dancers in The Emerald City at the RWB’s 2018 Ballet Ball. Held at Fairmont Winnipeg, guests received an exclusive sneak peek performance to excerpts from the yet-to-premiere ballet, The Wizard of Oz.

The sold-out crowd was treated to an exquisite Wizard of Oz-inspired dinner served with Ruby Slipper cocktails. The IJL Emerald City Luxury Draw saw two lucky guests go home with a stunning emerald gem or two tickets to anywhere WestJet flies. A rollicking live auction featured prizes like artwork by multimedia artist Ewa Tarsia, a year-long Dream Car lease from Birchwood Automotive, and a Churchill Summer Experience package for two.

CBC’s Sean Kavanagh emceed the night, guiding Ballet Ball guests through an unforgettable evening of performances by RWB School Recreational and Professional Division students as well as two performances by the RWB Company dancers: Mauricio Wainrot’s Carmina Burana and Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz, which will have its Canadian premiere in May 2019.

Thank you to all sponsors, guests, and a very sincere thank you to Presenting Sponsor, TD Bank Group, for their commitment to the art of dance and support of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Thank you to Ballet Ball Chair, Dana Mayberry, and to her talented Ballet Ball Committee for their hard work and expertise. Proceeds from the Ballet Ball enable the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to continue its mission to present world class ballet, and to educate, inspire, and train young dancers from around the world. Together with our donors and sponsors, we provide support and opportunities for our dancers to become the renowned artists of tomorrow.

Greenroom: Retiring with grace

Headshot of Stephan Possin

When is the right time for a professional dancer to take their final bow? Stephan Possin, RWB School graduate and RWB corps de ballet dancer since 2013, decided his would be during the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s 2017-18 season ender: Carmina Burana. Possin, who also worked as a residence advisor with the RWB School and served as co-chair on the RWB Barre After Hours committee, will be greatly missed within the organization and on stage (specifically as the Mouse King in Nutcracker)! The RWB had a chance to catch up briefly with Possin before he embarks on a new chapter in his life.

Royal Winnipeg Ballet: Why did you decide now was a good time to retire?
Stephan Possin: I have been suffering from chronic, recurring injuries in my shins. I have had several stress-fractures in both my left and right shins. During 2017, I was on disability twice. This prevented me from performing Swan Lake in Virginia, Cinderella in Detroit, and Nutcracker.

RWB: What are your plans for the future?
SP: I will be attending school to finish off my business degree at the University of Winnipeg. I will be focusing on both Human Resources and Marketing. I was able to complete half of my degree alongside my dancing career and now I will have the chance to become a full-time student to complete the degree. I will also be working part-time at Wooftopia as a daycare attendant for dogs and I will also be a server at Langside Grocery.

RWB: What advice would you give aspiring dancers?
SP: My strongest piece of advice would be take advantage of every moment as a dancer, but remember to rest when needed. My body caused me to miss a lot of opportunities and forced me to retire at only 25. Don’t miss an opportunity but know when it’s time to rest and put yourself first!

RWB: Who have been your biggest support (or supporters) throughout your dance career?
SP: The Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company family has been the largest support. All of the artists in the company have kept me sane and proactive during the difficult and challenging times, but also during the times when I needed to focus to successfully perform difficult and complex roles.

RWB: What are the top three ballets you have danced in your career?
SP:

  1. The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
  2. Concerto Barocco
  3. Four Seasons

RWB: Top three dance-related memories?
SP:

  1. Receiving my first ever company contract during Nutcracker of 2011 for the 2012-13 season
  2. Touring with the Company internationally to Europe and China
  3. Being able to do what I love every day and make a living out of it

RWB: Any parting words to share?
SP: I am thankful for the opportunities that I have received throughout my career at the RWB and feel honored and humbled to perform for audiences around the world but more so the Winnipeg audience.