Vanessa Leonard (Lawson)
“Lawson is our reigning princess of the dance stage and deserves to be adored.” – Winnipeg Free Press, 2012
“So it needs to be said that Lawson, in her 12th season with RWB, isn’t just dependable. She’s a shining artist one to celebrate and treasure as she deepens her interpretations and polishes her beautiful technique from one role to the next.”
- Winnipeg Free Press, 2010
“But on Wednesday night in Romeo and Juliet, the 31-year-old ballerina made a breathtaking debut, investing body and soul in a flawless portrayal of Shakespeare’s 14-year-old heroine. In a triumph of sensitive acting as well as technique, Lawson takes Juliet from a flitting child to a defiant young woman who announces with every cell of her being that nothing will keep her from her romantic destiny.”
- Winnipeg Free Press, 2009
“The wispy Lawson just seems to get better all the time. Her long-limbed expressiveness and impeccable technique captures the enchanting magic of the snow Pas de Deux…”
-Winnipeg Free Press, 2007
“Lawson packs an enormous wallop of power into her tiny frame, and is quickly becoming the sparkling jewel in the RWB’s crown.”
- Uptown Magazine, 2007
“Lawson proved that her greatest strength is her fragility. Her barely-there presence belies an astonishing physical strength, with her sinewy arms and trembling feet capturing all of Odette’s yearning vulnerability”
- Winnipeg Free Press, 2006
“Lawson brings a sweetness and naiveté to the role that makes Giselle’s ultimate betrayal all the more poignant.”
- Georgia Straight, 2002
Vanessa Lawson was hired into the Company the following year as an apprentice, promoted to soloist in 2002 and became a principal dancer in the 2005/06 season.
Lawson has performed many principal roles since joining the RWB. The first of such roles was in David Nixon’s Butterfly, when Nixon picked Lawson from the corps de ballet to perform the lead. In the 2001/02 season she worked with Sir Peter Wright to dance the dramatic and technical role of Giselle. After that experience she fell in love with the character and it has become one of her favourite roles. She received rave reviews for her reprisal of the role for the 2011/12 season.
Other roles that Lawson enjoys include Odette/Odile in Galina Yardonova’s staging of Swan Lake, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Lucy in Mark Godden’s Dracula, Pamina in Mark Godden’s The Magic Flute, the tender Cours D’Amour in Mauricio Wainrot’s Carmina Burana and the lead role of Nancy in Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story. She has performed many Balanchine ballets and loves the athleticism, precision and musicality they demand. Lawson is known for roles that have been created on her including Tinker Bell in Jorden Morris’ Peter Pan; Destiny in Mauricio Wainrot’s Carmen, The Passion; March Hare in Shawn Hounsell’s Wonderland; and Natalie in Jorden Morris's box-office hit Moulin Rouge® – The Ballet. She returned to dance the lead role in Giselle in 2012.
In 2009 Lawson danced the role of Juliet in Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo & Juliet for which she was called “simply stunning” by the Winnipeg Free Press. Performing this role was one of the most memorable moments of her career. Lawson has appeared as a guest artist internationally, performing in galas with the Compania Nacional de Danza in Mexico City, the Benios De La Danse in Moscow, the 10th and 13th International Ballet Festivals of Miami, and the Encore International Dance Festival in Quebec. She has also been invited to dance with various companies and schools in full-length productions of Nutcracker, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty in Canada, the USA and Spain. In the fall of 2009, Lawson was hand selected by acclaimed choreographer Peter Quanz to perform a new piece called In Tandem at the prestigious Guggenheim Museum in New York City and at the 2010 Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa. As part of the Cultural Olympiad for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games she performed the lead in Hikarizatto.
While continuing to dance with the RWB, in 2012 she began working with the artistic team of the RWB and Q Dance. She traveled to Havana, Cuba in 2012 to set Peter Quanz’s ballet Luminous on the Cuban National Ballet Company.
Vanessa retired from the company in 2013 and continues to contribute to the RWB as a Ballet Master. She continues to guest in character roles with the RWB Company.
Vanessa left home at the age of 16 to further her studies at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division where she received the Prince Edward Award and graduated with distinction in 1996.
Place of Birth