September RWB Spotlight

Sep 28 2018 | Posted in Spotlight

RWB Brings one of Canada’s Most Celebrated Literary Achievements to Stage

RWB Dancer Alanna McAdie posing in costume. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s female-led 79th season of mainstage productions begins in the world of Gilead. The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the critically acclaimed novel by Canadian literary giant Margaret Atwood, returns to the Centennial Concert Hall from October 10-14 for the first time since the ballet made its World Premiere five years ago.

Choreographer Lila York’s dance-drama portrays a dystopian future where the audience shadows the restricted, yet resilient, Offred as she navigates a world where women’s rights have been stripped away in this powerful interpretation of Atwood’s gripping novel.

“Creating a ballet based on Margaret Atwood’s prescient novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, has been a longstanding and passionate wish for me,” says York. “In the years since the novel’s debut in 1985 it has only grown in relevance and importance. Once seen as ‘controversial’, the story, its premise and its characters, are now fully part of our culture and our lexicon. It has been a privilege for me to work with RWB and their brilliant and dedicated dancers on this project. I am deeply indebted to Ms. Atwood for her support and her wisdom.”

Atwood’s dystopian bestselling classic was published in 1985 and has returned to the bestseller list in wake of the 2016 American Presidential election. Translated into over 40 languages, Atwood’s Governor General Award-winning novel has been adapted to film, opera, a novel-to-radio series, an award-winning audiobook, graphic novel, television series, and York’s ballet, commissioned by RWB Artistic Director and CEO André Lewis in 2013.

“Through dialogue with Margaret Atwood, Lila York spent nearly a decade re-imagining the dystopian world of Gilead to enthrall our audience,” says RWB Artistic Director and CEO André Lewis. “Written over 30 years ago, The Handmaid’s Tale rings truer than ever as we observe the current political climate. York’s powerful reimagining of this stirring tale, when brought to life by the athleticism of our Company dancers, is sure to spark conversation and leave a lasting impression.”

To transport audiences, York assembled a team of top international talent in lighting, design and costuming. Innovative set designer Clifton Taylor, who has worked with the world’s leading dance and opera companies, was assisted by Anshuman Bhatia to bring the world so vividly imagined by Atwood to the stage. Designer Liz Vandal, lauded for her cutting-edge fashion design and costuming for Cirque du Soleil and Marie Chouinard, created original costuming to fit the narrative’s dark romanticism.

Set to a pastiche score of renowned composers, including James MacMillan, Arvo Pärt, and John Corigliano, among others, the thought-provoking ballet will provide a rich array of new characters to showcase the energy and theatricality of the RWB Company dancers.

The Handmaid’s Tale Events

RWB Book Club: Join us as the RWB ventures alongside this season’s four protagonists: The Handmaid Tale’s Offred, Clara from Nutcracker, Juliet from Romeo & Juliet, and The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy. Our first Book Club meeting, which will focus on The Handmaid’s Tale, will meet after the Friday, October 12 performance. More information here.

Pre-show Chats: Join us thirty minutes prior to each performance at the Centennial Concert Hall for a chat between RWB artistic staff and local media. Admission is free with The Handmaid’s Tale ticket.

Meet the Dancers: RWB dancers will be available for photos and to sign autographs on October 11 and 14 immediately following the performance.

Backstage Tour: Join us for an intimate look at the exciting world of dance behind the scenes on Saturday, October 13 following the performance. Tickets to the tour are free, but limited, and available at intermission.

Season subscriptions are still available! Get yours today by contacting our Box Office in person at 380 Graham Avenue, or by calling 204-956-2792. Single tickets are available through our Box Office and online at rwb.org. Groups of ten or more should contact the RWB Customer Service Office for more information on group discounts. Please note that the RWB does not sell tickets through any third-party websites.

RWB company dancers Stephan Azulay and Elizabeth Lamont reading The Handmaid's Tale

Join the (Book) Club!

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is proud to launch our very-first book club for our 79th season, a season featuring fascinating female lead roles.

All are welcome to join us as we venture alongside our upcoming season’s four protagonists: The Handmaid Tale’s Offred, Clara from Nutcracker, Juliet from Romeo & Juliet, and The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy.

Members of the book club are encouraged to participate in discussions on our RWB Book Club Facebook group and are invited to attend our in-person book club meeting that takes place after every Friday’s performance. For example, the RWB Book Club meeting, which will discuss The Handmaid’s Tale, is Friday, October 12th and we are extremely excited to have notable Canadian author Margaret Sweatman host our first meeting.

We will be exploring the following stories throughout the year: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Gregory Maguire’s Hiddensee (a retelling of Nutcracker), Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Feel free to join for as many as you like!

For further information, or to sign up, please click here.

Headshot of Dmitri Dovgoselets along side a photo of Dmitri when he was younger

RWB Principal Dancer Celebrates Milestone Year

Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dmitri Dovgoselets trained at The National Ballet School of Ukraine in Kyiv. Following graduation, he joined The National Ballet of Ukraine where he danced for two seasons. Dmitri toured Canada with The National Ballet of Ukraine and Shumka Ukrainian Dancers before joining the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as an Apprentice in 1998. He was promoted to Soloist in 2005 and Principal Dancer in 2015.

Dmitri has performed an extensive repertoire including Albrecht in Giselle, Romeo in Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo & Juliet and the roles of Prince Désiré and Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty. Recently, Dmitri partnered Evelyn Hart in the world premiere of James Kudelka’s Vespers.

The RWB had the opportunity to chat with Dmitri as he reflects on the last twenty years.

Royal Winnipeg Ballet: What were some of the first roles you danced with us?

Dmitri Dovgoselets The Prince in Nutcracker. For second-lead roles, Blue Bird in The Sleeping Beauty and Mercutio from Romeo & Juliet. I was only with the Company for two-and-a-half years when I had the opportunity to dance Mercutio. We were on tour in China when the initial dancer cast as Mercutio couldn’t perform, leaving me one day to work on the role.

RWB: What has been your favourite role?

DD: Mercutio from Romeo & Juliet because he is very versatile- you can add your own personality to the role.

RWB: What are some of your favourite ballets to perform?

DD:Aside from Romeo & Juliet and Dracula, Carmina Burana, In the Upper Room, and Symphony in D.

RWB: Who is your favourite choreographer to collaborate with and why?

DD: Mark Godden. I enjoy his work, collaborative style, and personality—we have a great relationship.

RWB: Who has been your greatest mentor?

DD: My teacher at the National Ballet School of Ukraine, Valerie Parsegov. I was taught everything I need to help me through my career.

RWB: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received during your time at the RWB?

DD:

  1. Dance from the heart.
  2. Be genuine on stage.
  3. Make people feel something.

RWB: What is your favourite rehearsal story?

DD: When we were rehearsing Dracula, former dancer David Lucas began to mime walking down “stairs” behind the large bed that is used as a stage prop in the ballet—it was hilarious.

RWB: What is your favourite story from touring?

DD: In 2008, my wife Tara Birtwhistle and I were invited to dance at the Gala Des Etoiles in Montréal. It was an honour to dance Belong at this event and better yet, we had just found out that Tara was pregnant with our first child.

RWB: What have been your proudest moments at the RWB thus far?

DD: The filming of The Tale of the Magic Flute, the made-for-television version of Godden’s ballet. The whole cast was awarded a Gemini- it was a fun, memorable experience. In 2012 I had the opportunity to partner with Paloma Herrera, principal dancer from the American Ballet Theatre, in the premiere of Twyla Tharp’s The Princess & The Goblin. Last but not least, meeting and shaking the Queen’s hand in 2010.

Photos of Alanna McAdie as a child in dance costumes.

From Studio to Stage: Company Soloist, Alanna McAdie shares her experience at the RWB School

“I was just eight years old and flipping through the pages of a Royal Ballet School book when I knew that I wanted to be a ballerina. I studied dance in my hometown of Edmonton, but something inside kept telling me that the RWB should be my home. When I was 15 years old I auditioned for a spot in the RWB School’s Professional Division. As fate would have it, I was accepted! I packed my bags and moved to Winnipeg to begin my training at the RWB School.

When I arrived at the School, I knew that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I was considered a late starter by ballet standards and, surrounded by countless other girls who wanted to be a ballerina just like me, I knew I had my work cut out for me. The School understood that and was there to support and help me. It was years of hard work and I had a lot of catching up to do, but I was determined. The RWB School saw potential in me I never knew I had and challenged me to push myself.

In 2009, I graduated from the Professional Division and have been dancing with the RWB Company ever since. Without the dedication of the School, I would not be the dancer I am today.

Today, my connection to the School remains strong. The RWB School was and will always remain the greatest impact on who I am as an artist.”

By supporting the David Moroni School Endowment Fund, donors like you make it possible for dancers like Alanna to complete their education at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and go on to dance, choreograph and teach in Canada and around the world. Your gift to the David Moroni School Endowment Fund allows the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School to continue to provide future generations of dancers with world class ballet training, facilities, and performance opportunities to achieve their dreams. Today, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet invites you to make a gift to the David Moroni School Endowment Fund!

Did you know that if you donate by November 30th, 2018 your gift will be matched up to 100% by the Government of Canada’s Cultural Investment Fund? By donating today, you will increase the impact of your gift, reaching the lives of not one but many young dancers.

The David Moroni School Endowment Fund was established in honour of David Moroni, C.M.,O.M., D.Litt, upon his retirement as RWB School Director, after 35 years at its helm. The goal of the Fund is to create a lasting legacy to ensure the long-term health and stability of the Professional Division and enable the RWB School to continue to cultivate the dedication and creative spirit of its young artists. Make your gift today! To learn more, please click here.

RWB Company Dancers posing in long white tutus in a grassy field.

RWB Company Dancers behind the scenes at a photoshoot.

Alpacas, and goats, and chickens—oh my!

The RWB had a hay-day (pun intended) during our 80th anniversary season photo and video shoot. Dancers traded the studio for stables as they took in the beautiful fall prairie landscape. Thank you to the lovely Aurora Farm who hosted us throughout the week. If you live in Manitoba, we encourage you to give them a visit—you won’t want to leave.

Stay tuned for details on our 80th anniversary season launch, we can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on!

Img of Filbert the Nutcracker Bear standing with children holding balloons that say RWB

Everybody Dance Now!

Mark your calendars, Manitoba Dance Day returns to the RWB studios on Sunday, September 30th.

This annual event is a great, free means for individuals of all ages and levels to come together to learn an original piece of hip hop choreography by three local hip hop choreographers, culminating in a public informal performance.

MB Dance Day is the afternoon of Sunday, September 30 at our studios at 380 Graham Avenue. Come one, come all!

Manitoba Dance Day is presented by Dance Manitoba, with support from Rainbow Stage and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.

The event will commence rain or shine!

Register here: https://www.dancemb.org/manitoba-dance-day.html

GREENROOM

RWB Company Dancers in The Handmaid’s Tale

RWB Company dancers share what they like best about playing a character on stage

Lila York’s The Handmaid’s Tale has a wide variety of characters, from independent Moira, to good-hearted Offred, to the cruel Serena Joy. Getting into character is one of the many tasks a dancer must master before opening night. Read below to hear what RWB Company dancers like best about playing a character on stage.

Jo-Ann Sundermeier
Principal

My favorite part about playing a character on stage is simply becoming someone else. It can be either a character you completely relate to, and you develop the persona based on your own experiences… or, on the other hand, it can be someone completely opposite to your own personality, and you get the chance to discover a new temperament. I love being able to tell a story on stage!

Sophia Lee
Principal

My favourite part about playing a character on stage is the acting and acting in relation to others. You can build relationships with your partner or others you are dancing with throughout the rehearsal process and whether it is through a subtle look or a big movement, our job is to portray our characters to the audience.

Josh Reynolds
Soloist

Being on stage has always been a place of joy for me. It’s the only time that’s it’s finally just you and your artistry!

Alanna McAdie
Soloist

I enjoy reading, so in this case, I feel like I am inside the book, as if I jumped right into the pages. For any character role, I enjoy trying to imagine being in someone else’s life, and all the things that make up their story.

Sarah Davey
Second Soloist

My favourite part about playing a character on stage is that I get to take the audience on a journey through someone else’s story.

Elizabeth Lamont
Second Soloist

My favourite part about playing a character on stage is that I get to take the audience on a journey through someone else’s story.

Elizabeth Lamont
Second Soloist

My favourite part about playing a character is losing myself in the role. Nothing feels more artistic than to forget there is an audience watching you, to stop ‘counting’ and make choices based on how you feel in that moment being the character. I also think that’s the beauty of live performance, it’s always a little different every night and the character development makes the audience truly connect to the movement they are watching. It becomes a language that everybody can understand.

Katie Bonnell
Corps de Ballet

I love getting to play a character on stage because it allows you to become someone completely different. I think you can learn a lot about yourself when playing a character because it often allows you to tap into a part of yourself that you didn’t necessarily know existed.

Jaimi Deleau
Corps de Ballet

My favorite part about playing a character on stage is being able to explore the different emotions and qualities each character has. It is a very special process diving into a completely different role with each ballet!

Liam Saito
Corps de Ballet

I enjoy thinking about and imagining the intentions of the characters I play in each part of the ballet and finding ways to translate that into my body language and the choreography in order to portray the narrative.

Catch RWB Company dancers in The Handmaid’s Tale from October 10-14 at the Centennial Concert Hall. Ticket information is available here.