April Company Spotlight

Apr 29 2017 | Posted in Spotlight

Spend Mother’s Day with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet!

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and while money can’t buy happiness, it can buy a one-of-a kind experience for you and your mom on Mother’s Day! Join us at RWB’s Vespers on Sunday, May 14th for a pre-show reception at the Centennial Concert Hall for you and your mom! Roses, mimosas, and ballet are among the perfect ingredients for a fabulous Mother’s Day!

Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for details on our pre-show reception!

“This has been the pinnacle of my career”- Karen Rodd, Vespers Mask Designer

Mask Designer Karen Rodd with Unfinished Mask; Photo: Heather Milne

Meet Cooper, Julius, and Axel.

The newest additions to the RWB aren’t dancers, but realistic full-head animal masks that are worn throughout Vespers.

Cooper, Julius, and Axel aren’t the character names, but the names that Karen Rodd, Vespers mask designer, chose for her individual creations. Cooper is the Hawk, Julius the Ram, and Axel is the Cardinal. Rodd created 10 masks in total and used materials ranging from carbon fiber, stretched velour, handmade feathers, and faux fur to bring these creations to life.

From start to finish, Rodd took approximately 10 months over the span of one-and-a-half years to create the masks.

As with many projects, the masks were created in episodes. For example, Rodd had to create the basic structures of the masks before Kudelka could begin his choreography. From there, dancers had to rehearse in masks, followed by Rodd making continuous adjustments. Five others, including artists to hand paint the masks, helped Rodd create these pieces at separate times depending on what stage of creation she was at.

While Rodd has only been in the mask-making business for a few years, she has surely made a name for herself as Rodd is Kudelka’s go-to mask maker. This wasn’t Rodd’s first time creating masks for ballet dancers; she notes the challenges of ensuring the dancers have visibility and that the mask is adequately weighted. Further, dancers need to trust that what they wear isn’t going to fall off. For that purpose, there’s an adjustable strap beneath the hard helmet-like structure to make sure the mask stays in place. Rodd doesn’t have a favourite mask, but notes that she has favourite elements of a mask, such as a nostril or a specific outline on the mask. Rodd says with certainty that her cherished moment is seeing her work in performance, when the masks come alive in their world.

Join us as we watch Vespers come to life May 14th-16th at the Centennial Concert Hall. For more information or to purchase your tickets, please visit rwb.org.

Swapping Tiaras for Animal Masks in Vespers

RWB Company Dancer Katie Bonnell with Porcupine Mask; Photo: Natasha Havrilenko

Katie Bonnell, RWB Corps de Ballet dancer, has the important albeit particular task of dancing as the Porcupine in James Kudelka’s Vespers.

Considering Kudelka’s masterful choreography and how ballet dancers are classically trained, it’s safe to say that performing in the oversized mask is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that Bonnell welcomes and meets head-on (pun intended).

Bonnell notes that the first step to dancing in a mask of this caliber is teaching yourself not to panic and to adequately breathe. Prior to dancing, Bonnell would just wear the mask to learn how to breathe with it on. However, even after learning to breathe properly, the mask changes how Bonnell dances. For example, the masked dancer needs to heavily rely on their partner and their other senses to guide them. A challenge unique to Bonnell is successfully performing without poking her partner with the Porcupine’s quills!

Bonnell, who is one of the dancers who wears their mask for the entire performance, notes the challenge of not being able to use facial expressions to communicate while dancing- she must entirely rely on her body to portray character. How did Bonnell get into her porcupine character? Lots of time spent watching YouTube videos to study porcupine movements and mannerisms!

The mask isn’t the only wardrobe variation Bonnell must get used to, as she is dancing ballet in capri pants, a blouse, peplum corset, and even a jacket in some sections! While the masks are objects of beauty, they would simply just be objects without the talent of the RWB dancers wearing them. From set design to music, Bonnell notes Vespers is truly unique and unlike anything audiences have seen before. Vespers undoubtedly showcases the talent of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet!

Tickets to Vespers begin at just $29 and can be purchase online at www.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. Groups of ten or more should contact the RWB Customer Service Office for more information on group discounts!

SAVE THE DATE: RWB’s Barre After Hours is Approaching!

Behind-the-scenes at Barre After Hours Photoshoot; Photo: Katie Bonnell

While we are always sad to see summer go, we know the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s annual Barre After Hours is a great reason to look forward to September… Saturday, September 9th to be exact!

The highly-anticipated 2017 Barre After Hours theme will be announced shortly! Stay up-to-date with Barre After Hours by following them on Twitter: @barreafterhours and Instagram: @rwbbarreafterhours

Greenroom: One Student’s Journey to Spotlight

RWB School PD Students Rehearsing; Photo: Stanislav Belyaevsky

This month our PR Coordinator had the opportunity to sit down with Liam Reid, Level 7 RWB School Professional Division student, on his experience working with choreographer Jera Wolfe for the RWB School Professional Division’s annual performance: Spotlight. Wolfe is a RWB School grad and the choreographer of Reminiscence, one of the pieces performed at Spotlight.

1. What is your role in Reminiscence?
LR: I am a core member; however, I also cover everything else in the piece. This means not only do I have to know the Ensemble and main pas de deux, but I also must know the exact details of the floor section, Storm, solo and pas de deux with the 2 younger boys.

2. How did you prepare for this role?
LR: A lot of contemporary choreographers ask us to breathe. I’ve been focusing on breath control by meditating as well as breaking down the choreography to music with slower and sometimes faster tempos.

3. What was your biggest challenge in preparing for this role?
I have been working on all the ground movements, distributing my weight in a way that works to my advantage as well as working on soft landings.

4. How does your role in Reminiscence compare to other roles you’ve danced?
Reminiscence isn’t comparable to anything that I’ve danced before. However, the amount of detail Jera is asking for reminds me of being in Come In by Azure Barton.

5. What do you like best about Reminiscence?
Reminiscence never stops moving. The pursuit of keeping the piece dynamic in its quick changes in direction and isolations is really what I enjoy.

6. What is it like working with Jera?
LR: Enjoyable. With that said, he works us very hard. He manages to mix in a few jokes and a surprising amount of wisdom for someone so early in their career.

7. How did it feel to work with a recent RWB School graduate?
There was a period during the middle where it was very useful for Jera to understand our program or what mindset we were coming from. Jera understands what we are doing every day and can identify issues better than someone who comes from outside the School.

8. How do you predict this experience will prepare you for a career in dance?
Firstly, being a part of the creative process. It requires a lot of patience as Jera is finding his own ideas along the way. I got used to adapting every rehearsal to his needs and trying to find what he is looking for in his style. Secondly, the experience of Jera’s personal choreography style. Not only are we emulating movements, but Jera’s ideas as well. For example, Jera specifically focuses on breath, constant motion, and feeling grounded in Reminiscence.

Catch Reminiscence, along with excerpts from Marius Petipa’s Raymonda, and Mauricio Wainrot’s Carmina Burana May 25-27 at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

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.