En Pointe 21 - Jan 30

Jan 29 2021 | Posted in Blog, En Pointe

RWB Embraces Digital Performances for 2020/21 Season

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has always found a way to perform. Since the early days when dancers would pack a single bus full of costumes and sets and head out on tour, the company has made it their mission to use what they have to bring ballet to the world. 80 years later, the RWB has found a new way to share its art with you once again.

The RWB will be embracing digital media and livestreaming platforms to bring the remaining shows of its 81st season to ballet enthusiasts around the world. In only a few short weeks from the date of publication, the RWB will be performing a reimagined rendition of one of the most iconic ballets ever produced. Using digital video streaming, this will be your chance to see classical ballet in an entirely new way, all from the comfort of your home.

In what has been dubbed Visions of Swan Lake, the RWB will take audiences through the most adored sequences in the timeless ballet. Visions of Swan Lake will feature beloved characters, wearing beautifully intricate costumes, complete with masks, and exploring themes of light and dark, truth and deceit, and, of course, true love.

After the success of The Nutcracker Suite last month, the RWB continued exploring how to deliver an even better experience to its audience. This led the RWB to connect with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, our Arts Partner, to provide a live musical rendition of the incredible Tchaikovsky score as only the WSO’s musicians can. Additionally, Visions of Swan Lake will be filmed and produced by FRANK Digital. Now, viewers will be part of the action, close up and personal with the dancers.

Visions of Swan Lake would not be possible without the generosity and patronage of our audience, funders, sponsors, donors, students and families. In particular, the RWB wishes to thank the Production Sponsor, Richardson Foundation; the Technology Supporter, Canada Life; and the Music Benefactor, The Asper Foundation, for their unwavering support of the RWB during these challenging times.

Just as the Swan Princess Odette changes when the sun sets, so too must the RWB change with the times. When the sun rises again, we will return to the stage. Until then, we hope you join us for Visions of Swan Lake and for future digital performances as the RWB continues sharing its art with the world.

ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s Strengthens the Mind and Body

Much has been written about the healing and restorative power of movement. By challenging our brains and bodies with new concepts, ideas, and motions, our brains build new, better pathways that can allow us to accomplish amazing things. This is especially true for those experiencing degenerative brain and motor impairments such as Parkinson’s, and even by completing simple, novel motions we can noticeably improve on our own wellbeing.

It’s all part of a day’s work for Ms. Ladwig, whose development of the RWB’s ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s program in 2009 was inspired by the Dance for PD workshop she attended at the National Ballet School. The class Ms. Ladwig operates engages its dancers through rhythm and dance-based movement, to help those with Parkinson’s Disease stave off its degenerative effects by maintaining and creating new neural pathways in the brain. With the clever combination of music and movement, which draws from different dance disciplines including ballet, modern, jazz and tap, routines are presented in an approachable and comfortable way. Ms. Ladwig is able to help her students stand taller, move more confidently, and challenge their memory.

“ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s uses music to intentionally guide the coordination of movement. When we use rhythm to guide our movements, we are better able to manage the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s, and in the process develop better rhythm, body awareness, coordination, posture, alignment, a sense of self-expression, and improved mental health,” says Ms. Ladwig.

Registration is now open for the latest session of the ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s program, which is being delivered entirely online. The majority of the class is performed seated with seated adaptations provided for any standing exercises. This has made it easier than ever to join the class, which is open to everyone regardless of diagnosis. All you need is a computer or smart device, a chair, and enough space to reach your arms out to the side and stretch your legs in front of you.

When in-person classes are able to return, so too will the use of the barre and standing portion of the class. Importantly, seated adaptations are always offered alongside the standing portion of the class to ensure that all are able participate fully.

“I believe that everyone can dance,” says Ms. Ladwig. “Regardless of our level of fitness, experience, or physical capability, we’re all able to enjoy and experience the physical, cognitive, and mental health benefits of dance”.

For participants, ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s often feels like a weekly check-in, an outlet to connect and chat with others who may share similar challenges. Many people report a sense of connection in the group, and laughter is a common byproduct of Ms. Ladwig’s class. Maureen Shanski and her husband John have participated in the ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s classes and together they share fond memories of their dance experience.

“When Jacqui is giving a class,” says Mrs. Shanksi, “it uses so many different parts of the brain. You’re listening to the music, counting the beat, and performing specific movements. Then she’ll ask you to move in ways that challenge your balance and your brain. She’s very accommodating with her approach, and it’s always a lot of fun.”

In teaching ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s, Ms. Ladwig is welcoming and inclusive in her approach. Not only is each class customized to the needs of participants, the ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s program welcomes caregivers, partners, and spouses to join in the class free of charge. According to Ms. Ladwig, who believes in the important role dance plays in healthy bodies and minds at all ages, the class is also suitable for those who have any form of motor impairment, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, or other movement challenges resulting from illness (e.g. Cancer, heart disease or Stroke).

“It gives me great joy to see people of all ages and capabilities dancing together, connecting and engaging with their world in new and different ways,” says Ms. Ladwig.

Click here for more information and learn how to register for ExplorAbility for Parkinson’s.

Green Room: Streaming Recommendations from the RWB Company Dancers

Welcome to Green Room, where we get to spend time with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company dancers. Get to know their personalities, experiences, and everything that makes them unique. Check back each month for new, fun, and sometimes surprising glimpses into the lives of our dancers. This month, En Pointe asked the dancers to share their latest streaming recommendations. Enjoy!

“Lately I’ve been watching New Girl and Schitt’s Creek, I love Schitt’s Creek. I’ve also watched The Office in its entirety probably four or five times. It’s my favourite show.” - Katie Simpson

“I like to watch really spooky, scary movies, so the last movie I watched was The Nun. It was really good.” – Jenna Burns

“My girlfriend and I recently watched a movie on Crave called An American Pickle. It stars Seth Rogan who plays an Eastern European Jewish man who emigrates to the US in the early 20th century. He gets a job working in a pickle factory and it’s a silly movie but it has a lot of great morals. It’s a nice, warm-hearted story.” – Josh Hidson

“Currently, my favourite show I’ve been watching is Money Heist on Netflix, and Dark, both great series. I have Disney+, I don’t find there’s too much substance on there, but The Mandalorian was surprisingly good.” – Stephan Azulay

“I’m a big Star Wars nerd and I’ve watched them a hundred times. I’m also into true crime documentaries on Netflix.” – Jaimi Deleau

The Lethal Weapon movies, for a while there I was going through the whole series about once every eight months. Also Ghostbusters, the Beverly Hills Cop movies, those are like soul food for me. The last movie I watched was Mary Poppins Returns. I had heard good things and I haven’t seen the original since I was 5 or 6 but I enjoyed it. It was a good homage.” – Liam Caines

“I just finished Modern Family, I was really sad about that actually.” - Michel Lavoie

“I recently rewatched the Lord of the Rings movies and the Hobbit movies, but I’ve been really into TV series lately. I just finished the Haunting of Hill House and the Haunting of Bly Manor, I went through those pretty quickly. I’m currently watching a series called Ratchet, which is about the nurse from One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest, it’s her back story and it’s really creepy. I’m also watching this show called The Hundred, it’s really good.”– Katie Bonnell

“I like to watch movies but lately I’ve been watching more TV series. Recently I finished the last season of Schitt’s Creek and it’s a good show. It’s light, nice to watch before you go to bed and you don’t worry about anything.” – Peter Lancksweerdt

I like to watch Schitt’s Creek and The Good Place is really good too. The Office is great, I’ve watching it and Will & Grace probably 10 times each. I also love Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Legend of Korra, they’re on Netflix but I also have them on DVD. For some reason, during 2020, I rewatched the entire Star Wars saga three times. Don’t ask me why, I guess quarantine does crazy things.” – Ryan Vetter

“Recently, I watched Avengers: Endgame and I loved it. I also really like the Spider Man movies, especially the old ones with Tobey Maguire.” – Yue She

“The last movie I watched was All the Bright Places on Netflix. It’s a pretty sad movie honestly, about a girl and her sister, they get into a car accident and the sister dies. It’s pretty wild and really quite sad. – Tymin Keown

“I’m a huge documentary buff. I don’t like watching TV just for fun, I like learning. I’d recommend any documentary on Netflix, I’ve pretty much watched them all. There was a really good one called Sour Grapes, where this wine connoisseur basically created a counterfeit expensive wine out of a bunch of really cheap wines. He mixed them all up, it fooled a lot of people and he made a lot of money.” – Sarah Joan Smith

Audition Tour Makes Stop in Winnipeg

This year is the RWB School Professional Division’s 50th anniversary and for the first time its annual Audition Tour took place entirely online. Safety remains the highest priority for the RWB School and keeping students and faculty safe during the pandemic has been a major motivating factor behind the change. Also new this year, the RWB School combined auditions and master classes into one session, giving students a sense of what classes are like at the RWB School.

Michel Lavoie, a graduate of the Ballet Academic Program from 2018, recently secured a highly sought-after position in the RWB Corps de Ballet. Lavoie makes up part of the 75 percent of RWB Company dancers who are graduates of the RWB School, and, along with 30 percent of the RWB School student body, he was born in Winnipeg. As with Lavoie, more than half of the RWB’s School artistic faculty are also RWB School alumni.

“The training I received from the RWB School opened the door to my career as a professional dancer and gave me the strength and drive to achieve my dreams,” said Lavoie. “The teachers at RWB are all committed to helping their students reach their fullest potential. Each instructor has a comprehensive dance resume to draw from, the entire faculty does too, and the quality of their education is second-to-none.”

“Our annual Audition Tour has always been an exceptional way to meet new dancers and discover new talent. Although this year has been a little different, it remains one of the highlights of our year,” said RWB School Director Stéphane Léonard. “In many ways, the virtual Audition Tour has made things safer and easier for students from across the country, and new students will be kept safe with these precautions in place.”

Once the audition process is complete, students selected for professional training will be invited to attend Summer Session. The next step in the audition process, Summer Session runs each July. Last summer, Summer Session was delivered to students remotely via livestreaming. In 2021, the RWB School hopes to offer Summer Session classes in Winnipeg once again, however, plans are in place to expand the digital content which was developed last year. After Summer Session, students deemed a good fit for the RWB School Professional Division will be accepted into Regular Session, which runs from September 2021 to June 2022.

For additional information, please visit rwb.org/audition, email school@rwb.org, or call: 1-204-957-3467.

Faculty Spotlight – Sabine Chaland

Although she stands only a few inches over five feet, Sabine Chaland has a fantastic energy. She seems to make the air around her seem lighter, more relaxed, but make no mistake about Ms. Chaland, she can command your attention when she is teaching.

“Sometimes I am very demanding, but ballet is like that,” says Sabine Chaland reflexively. “You have to work hard; you have to push yourself if you want to succeed.”

Ms. Chaland has been one of the RWB School Professional Division’s Artistic Faculty since the 2018-2019 season, applying her vast knowledge and experience to help students excel. Prior to her current position, she was the Director of a ballet school in the South of France, where she had the joy of setting her versions of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker and Etudes, as well as numerous contemporary pieces.

“[My dance training] was done in a very dry way, back then there was no feeling. It was very challenging, emotionally, mentally, and physically. You had to give yourself one hundred percent,” recalls Ms. Chaland, “but now we know there must be a balance.”

Ms. Chaland’s approach draws upon not only her years of performing at companies across Europe, Russia and North America, but also her keen sense for the emotional and mental obstacles that the students may face. She believes the best outcomes are achieved when the mind and body work together, and Ms. Chaland sees it as her responsibility to help students find that balance.

“I perceive people’s energy and emotions very easily and I make a point to adapt my work to this,” says Ms. Chaland. “I try to help the students to know themselves better and sense their feelings. I wish I had someone who could have taught me what I teach them.”

More than anyone, Ms. Chaland understands the challenges facing the students on their chosen career path. She acknowledges how they dedicate years to the study of ballet, in many cases leaving their family behind, and the incredible the strength it takes to pursue their dream of becoming a professional. For Ms. Chaland, helping the students realize their goals is the best part of being a teacher.

“I want them to feel empowered. In the old days, you just had to survive but now we can be much more open. Now, when we make space to explore that in the studio, it is easier for students to lose their drive. When student can make space to be vulnerable without losing their power, it is very exciting to watch indeed.”

In Ms. Chaland’s classroom, her students are real-life superheroes. She sees it as is her responsibility to teach them discipline, resilience, and offer the tools to safely push themselves to the limit, but the students she sees following through day-after-day are the ones that inspire her the most. As Ms. Chaland says, no matter what her students choose to do in life, by following the path of a ballet dancer they will have learned everything they need to succeed, in fact, it will become second nature.