Apr 22 2019 | Posted in Blog

There’s no Place like Home; Canadian Premiere of The Wizard of Oz Takes Winnipeg by Storm!

It’s time to see the Wizard! The Wizard of Oz, a million-dollar co-production between Kansas City Ballet, Colorado Ballet, and the RWB will make its highly anticipated Canadian premiere at the Centennial Concert Hall from May 1-5 as the classic tale is brought to life through RWB Company dancers. Choreographer Septime Webre’s vivid retelling of L. Frank Baum’s beloved story of family, friendship, and courage sold out performances in the US and is expected to do so in Winnipeg.

This production is filled with all the familiarity of the classic movie – Dorothy and Toto’s landing in Oz, joining forces with three unlikely heroes, traveling to the Emerald City to see the Wizard, and their triumph over the Wicked Witch– yet realized with a bold, new spectacle of music, costumes, sets, projections, and special effects.

“The Wizard of Oz looms large in our collective psyches. Its vivid characters, sense of over-the-top whimsy, and spirit of adventure are beyond captivating- it’s a kinetic tale which begs to be danced,” said Webre. “It’s been a terrific project to work on, with a dream team of collaborators, and three excellent companies of dancers with whom I’ve developed material; it’s been exciting to see this iconic tale take on a new life!”

The Wizard of Oz has been in the works for the past two years and required a collaborative team of 120, not including dancers, to bring Webre’s vision to life. The musical score, composed by Matthew Pierce, is 471 pages long and features three percussion players playing 35 different percussion instruments, one of those being a wind machine. Conductor Julian Pellicano will lead the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra through Pierce’s score.

Set designer Michael B. Raiford created the set to give the feeling of looking down into a tornado. Trad A. Burns, lighting designer, created an environment where 300 light cues take place using over 1,000 channels of lights. Puppet designer Nicholas Mahon created nearly 20 puppets, including a mechanical Toto. The RWB Wardrobe Department spent nearly 7,000 hours in total building costume designer Liz Vandal’s The Wizard of Oz costumes in-house. There are nearly 200 costumes, all of which were hand-sewn and hand-dyed.

Children’s tickets are $25 with adult tickets starting at just $30. Tickets can be purchased 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. Please note that the RWB does not sell tickets through any third-party websites.

Join us for “The Making of a Ballet”!

Have you ever wondered how a story, concept, or idea evolves into a ballet?

Join Tara Birtwhistle, RWB’s Associate Artistic Director, as she hosts an educational, insightful behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Wizard of Oz ballet before the curtain rises on this Canadian Premiere. Meet some of the creative minds behind the choreography, costumes and sets during “The Making of a Ballet with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet”. This is part of McNally Community Classroom’s event series and takes place on Thursday, April 25 at 7 PM at 1120 Grant Avenue.

Tickets are $30 and is sure to pique the interest of anyone curious about the performing arts! Attendees will receive a pass to an exclusive backstage tour of The Wizard of Oz after the show on May 1!

Space is limited! For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

RWB School Artistic Faculty Moves Ukrainian Dance out of Church Basements

Teacher Training Program graduate and RWB School Recreational Division alumni, Kristina Washchyshyn (Frykas) has spent over 30 years in the studios of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and this July, she is about to embark on a new journey that will elevate the Ukrainian dance community in Manitoba.

Washchyshyn fell in love with ballet as a teenager, inspired by RWB School alumni Kendra Walker and former RWB Company dancer Cindy Marie Small after attending RWB School’s Dance Intensive. Years later, as a graduate of the School’s Teacher Training Program, she left Winnipeg to begin her career in teaching and dancing in Toronto and Italy. Washchyshyn has performed with Arkan Dance Company in Toronto, taught at the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts in Toronto, as well as Ateneo Danza Forli and Cesena in Italy.

After many years of teaching, Kristina was able to join Verba Dance Company and perform with Chai Folk Ensemble and Black Sea Station at the International Festival of Ukrainian Dance and Culture in Lviv, Ukraine. A memorable performance for her was a piece choreographed by fellow RWB School artistic faculty Marijka Stanowych and Claire Marshall in commemoration of the Ukrainian famine.

Verba also performed Nutcracker with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, which was my last show. It was a cool way to hang up my dance shoes, having my ballet world and my Ukrainian world coming together on one big stage.”

While all this was happening she also took on the role as Director of Sopilka Ukrainian Dance School and has supported, nurtured, and watched the school grow for 10 years.

As Artistic Director with Troyanda Dance Ensemble, she began the Manitoba Ukrainian Dance Festival as a main fundraiser to give the Manitoba Ukrainian dance community a professionally run festival to showcase the talent in the province!

Now, supported by her community and The Women’s Enterprise Centre, she will open her own studio doors on Stafford Street, July 1, and will officially move this fine art form out of the church basement!

“I’m calling it Kazka Dance Collective. I went through so many different names because so often the Ukrainian language sounds awkward by someone who doesn’t speak it and I wanted something that would keep its integrity in both English and Ukrainian. I like the double constant sound and translated, it means fairy tale, and in many ways, I feel like this is my fairy tale.

The RWB School Teacher Training Program (TTP) provided me with the education, both artistic and pedagogic, allowing me to not only have an amazing career teaching ballet but to apply all that knowledge to my Ukrainian school. There is no way I would be the teacher I am today without the TTP.”

The Ukrainian community has a deep appreciation and understanding for the artform of ballet and Washchyshyn explains that as a disciplined culture they are also extremely artistic.

“Music, dance, theatre, classic arts and high forms of art are so important to us and Ukrainian is one of those languages that I would describe as very poetic. Additionally, all schools and ensembles in Ukraine, no matter if they are from the city or a small village, use ballet as the technical training before they begin the folk elements.”

If you see Washchyshyn, please join us in congratulating her on these incredible achievements. We are so proud of the passion and dedication our RWB School Alumni bring to the art form of dance.

Three of Winnipeg’s Notable Art Organizations Under One Roof

For the second year in a row, the RWB School Recreational Division students performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and stars of Rainbow Stage for Guys & Dolls: In Concert at the Centennial Concert Hall. It’s an incredible collaboration between three of Winnipeg’s finest arts and culture organizations and delights audiences of all ages over one weekend in March. The 1950 Tony-award winning Broadway musical tells the tale of underworld gamblers willing to be it all on love. Fourteen of the RWB Dance Ensemble students played a variety of roles included choruses of cabaret dancers to crap shooters. Principal of the Recreational Division, Nicole Kepp believes these experiences are invaluable to the students, “it gives them the opportunity to take the skills they have learned at the RWB and apply them within a professional production. Learning and performing in this atmosphere provides so much growth for our students and is an amazing stepping stone to future opportunities.” Congratulations to all the students for their incredible performance and dedication to dance! Thank you to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Rainbow Stage for including the RWB School in this exciting partnership.

Greenroom: “This ballet is unlike anything I have ever performed”, RWB dancers share what they’re most excited for in Oz

We are mere weeks away from the opening night of The Wizard of Oz and the building is buzzing with excitement. RWB dancers take a moment to share what they’re most excited for as they enter the final stages of preparation!

I’m most excited about all the different visual components in the show .... the projection, physical sets, drops, and costumes all look incredible.

I love this ballet because there is a lot of dancing with beautiful and colorful costumes and sets. The music is great too- listening to the music makes me want to dance! I am also very excited to get to fly for the first time as Glinda!

I love that choreographer Septime can incorporate comedy so seamlessly into this ballet- it’s so great to watch all the dancers’ personalities shine!

I love The Wizard of Oz because all the characters are looking for something they already have. A brain, a heart, a place to call home, and courage.

This ballet is unlike anything I have ever performed, and I am especially thrilled to be performing the role of The Wicked Witch! I look forward to the opportunity to portray this iconic evil character onstage!

I love that this ballet is the product of 3 different ballet companies! I think it’s so cool that all the aspects of this production, from costumes and sets to choreography, are the result of a multi-city collaboration.

What I like best about this ballet is that it will be a visual spectacle. There is a lot of flying and impressive sets and costumes, which are some things that you don’t see very often see in a new ballet production. As a dancer, I like the technical challenges that we will have- this ballet is not easy to dance!

I have always loved the beautiful scenes and music in The Wizard of Oz movie, but I also love how it was one of the first movies of its time to showcase women and the power we have. It is still so relevant in today’s culture!

I really like how fun and energizing it is to be a part of this ballet. The munchkins’ music is very exhilarating as well as the choreography- it’s hard to not have fun while dancing. I’m excited for how grand this production is! I’ve never been a part of something of this magnitude so it’s very cool to be a part of such a classical and iconic story told in such a new and beautiful way.