July/August Company Spotlight

Aug 18 2017 | Posted in Spotlight


RWB Dancers Jo-Ann Sundermeier and Dmitri Dovgoselets in costume

Non-subscription tickets for Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB)’s 2017/18 season are now available! Tickets can be purchased through the RWB Customer Service Office at 380 Graham Avenue, by calling 204.956.2792, and online at rwb.org

RWB’s 78th season, a Season of Storytelling, begins on September 27 in the world of goblins and courageous young heroes with revered choreographer Twyla Tharp’s The Princess & the Goblin.

The holidays are once again a time for traditional tales of adventure and enchantment when Nutcracker returns to the stage from December 21-30.

On February 2, the RWB presents Canada’s Ballet Jörgen’s Anastasia for one night only. The Sleeping Beauty has long been a jewel in the RWB’s classical repertoire. Celebrated for its glorious music, lavish costuming and regal sets, this glittering production awakens from February 29 – March 4 and showcases the depth and breadth of the RWB’s talented company. In May, drama abounds with a dynamic mixed repertoire programme, featuring renowned works Carmina Burana and Balanchine’s Serenade.

“Serenade is one of my favorite ballets and definitely a piece everyone should experience,” says Jo-Ann Sundermeier, RWB Principal Dancer.

The season will conclude with performances by RWB Aspirants and the dancers of the RWB School Professional Division. The Company is extremely proud to present Spotlight in May and On The Edge in June as part of the 2017-18 season. These diverse showcases celebrate the remarkable talent of the School’s young artists from around the world.

Season subscriptions are still available. The more you subscribe, the more you save. In the Prima subscription tier, subscribers attend five world-class ballets while saving up to 25%. In the Corps tier, subscribers see three ballets while saving up to 15%.


Photo of a croud sitting in front of Assiniboine Park's Lyric Theatre for Ballet In the Park

Just like summer, we are sad to see Ballet In The Park go for another year.

As always, thank you to those who attended. You are the driving force behind Ballet In The Park and we love seeing new faces each year!

It looks like the feeling is mutual—read what attendees had to say about Ballet In The Park 2017:


  • “Such a cool performance! So enjoyed the evening last night thanks so much!” –Lori Herda Martin
  • “What a fantastic evening!” –April Avanthay Gauthier
  • “Well done everyone, great night!” –Christine Brown


  • “Went on thursday!! loved it!! “ –jhud993
  • “We went all 3 evenings. Amazing!” -@tampet


  • “Fantastic @rwballet productions!” -@scianflo
  • “A nice summer night for free ballet in the park! #Winnipeg @rwballet” -@JennyGerbasi
  • @rwballetThanks so much for a lovely evening of high calibre entertainment! Such gorgeous weather for #RWBBalletInThePark #Winnipeg” -@michelle373737
  • “ Yesterday I had @tiamariastacos tacos at @RWBallet #balletinthepark and they’re all I can think about now… #foodtruck #musthavetacos” @rlpbeckleston
  • “Last night was the first night of Ballet in the Park with @RWBallet and it was amazing! It’s on tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 ~ @mandyshewfm” -@VirginRadioWPG


  • “Every single year, I wait for the end of July- not because of the unbearable sun and 30°C+ temperatures, but because Ballet in the Park happens and completes my little ballet soul.” –An Historian About Town
  • “One of the most special parts of the night for me was when I was able to meet my favourite dancer after the show. She was so incredibly nice and friendly, and took the time after what I’m sure was a crazy busy day to speak with me. It’s rare to find someone who understands dance and is able to converse in detail, let alone someone who is a professional in the field! Truly one of the best nights I’ve had in years!” –An Historian About Town


RWB Dancers Alanna McAdie and Yosuke Mino dancing on stage alongside The Bros. Landreth

The term “summer vacation” is not commonly heard at the RWB. From July 28-August 13, the RWB showed their support for the Canada Summer Games in a multitude of ways at venues throughout Winnipeg.

On July 28, RWB Company dancers Yosuke Mino and Alanna McAdie performed alongside JUNO-winning The Bros. Landreth during the CSG Opening Ceremonies. On August 2 at the CSG Festival at The Forks, Yosuke Mino danced improvisationally with contemporary throat singer: Tanya Tagaq. On August 7 at the CSG Festival at The Forks, RWB Company Dancers performed the energetic, pulse-pounding Celts.

The RWB School was the exclusive tray bearer for the CSG. This unique opportunity was enjoyed by approximately 30 student dancers from both the Professional and Recreational Divisions of the RWB School. Tray bearers supported over 60 medal ceremonies from July 30-August 13, including the closing ceremonies which was broadcasted live across the country.

Ryley Krauss, Professional Division student, says: “I loved being a tray bearer for the 2017 Canada Summer Games. I am grateful to have had the opportunity.”

“The RWB School is honoured to have been selected as the exclusive tray bearer for the 2017 Canada Summer Games”, says Arlene Minkhorst, RWB School Director. “Our dancers have a lot in common with the student athletes competing in the Games. They are passionate, focused, driven, disciplined, and, of course, very talented. Like the athletes, they too have travelled a considerable distance and made many sacrifices to pursue their dreams. We are extremely proud to have these young people representing the RWB this week and next and we look forward to celebrating the accomplishments of athletes from across the country as they reach for the top this summer!”


RWB Professional Division Student

Each year the RWB School travels the globe in search of talented dancers to join one of three full-time professional programs: Ballet Academic (Ages 10+), Aspirant (Post-Secondary), and Teacher Training (Post-Secondary).

Auditions will be held in cities across Canada and in the United States from October 2017 to January 2018, and include Q & A sessions as well as master class in some cities. Students who are unable to attend an audition may send in a Video Application, which will be accepted until May 1, 2018.

Students who are identified as having potential for professional training will be invited to attend Summer Session which acts as the second phase of the audition process. Running throughout the month of July 2018 in Winnipeg, Canada, Summer Session allows students to experience life at the RWB School first hand, from the rigors of a professional training schedule to the uniqueness of a dormitory residence environment. After this month of intensive training, students who are deemed to be a fit for one of our professional programs will be accepted into Regular Session which runs from September 2018 to June 2019.

For Audition Tour dates and locations, visit rwb.org/audition.

For additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us via email school@rwb.org or by phone 204-957-3467.


Jesse Petrie at posing in costume

On September 9, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet building will open its doors for the third-annual Barre After Hours. This 18+ event invites the public to an unforgettable night filled with non-stop entertainment and a chance to mingle with RWB Company dancers in support of the RWB.

Company dancers don’t just attend Barre After Hours, they plan it too.

“This event is a great way for our community to meet RWB dancers. We do what we do on stage for them and I think it’s really important to get a chance to meet face-to-face,” says Sarah Davey, RWB Company dancer and Barre After Hours Co-chair. “Barre After Hours allows our performances to become that much more special because of the connections made with our audience.”

This year’s Barre After Hours features a “Crashing The Royals” theme alongside live performances by Skene Music, the notable Ron Paley, and the up-and-coming Moroccan-born singer/songwriter: Faouzia.

“When I perform, I feel as though I am telling a story. To have people listen and relate to my words is the most rewarding feeling because I know that I can help others this way,” says Faouzia. “If I make just one person smile, or feel as though they are not alone - I have done my job well.”

“Barre After Hours is an event where the community is invited to mix and mingle with the dancers of the RWB at the RWB building,” says Stephan Possin, RWB Company dancer and Barre After Hours Co-chair. “Attendees can expect to enjoy specially crafted cocktails, finger foods and desserts, live music, live dancing, live art, and much more!”

Tickets are just $40 and are available online at www.rwb.org, in person through the RWB Customer Service Office at 380 Graham Avenue or by calling 204-956-2792.

Stay up-to-date with Barre After Hours by following the event on Twitter: @barreafterhours, Instagram: @rwbbarreafterhours, and by joining the Facebook event here. Be part of the conversation with #barreafterhours.


Exterior photo of the RWB Building

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet invites you to our Annual General Meeting!

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet: 380 Graham Avenue
Founders’ Studio (Studio 116)

Thursday, September 28th
11 AM

GREENROOM: “TWYLA APPRECIATES PEOPLE WHO ARE WILLING TO LEARN AND DIVE INTO THE PROCESS.” – In conversation with Sarah Hillmer, Twyla Tharp’s The Princess & the Goblin stagehand

Headshot of Sarah HIllmer


Natasha Havrilenko: What exactly is the process of staging a ballet, specifically, The Princess & the Goblin?

Sarah Hillmer: First and foremost is casting. You must find the right people to portray the characters. Yes, they must be very good, but the most important is if this person is right for the character. For example, are they going to portray the innocence and the bravery of a princess?
After casting, it is all about teaching. For a stager, it’s a lot of homework. You wake up in the morning very early to start looking at the ballet, learn the choreography, and teach it. Musicality is very important for Twyla. I am teaching the steps, the intention of step, and honouring the musicality that Twyla found in Richard Burke’s score.

NH: What is your process getting dancers ready for The Princess & the Goblin?

SH: Specifically for Twyla’s work we are honing their technique. I am giving the dancers information on how to get a lyrical quality, but I am also giving them information to tap into their character. For example, how Natasha would eat an apple is different from how I would eat an apple. It’s guiding them through the character. It is mandatory that dancers read George MacDonald’s The Princes & the Goblin, the book which Twyla based her ballet on. It’s a rich wonderful story. Twyla added and changed a few things; however, the intention and the characters really stayed true.

NH: Were you involved in the creative process of The Princess & the Goblin? If so, to what degree?

SH: Yes, I was. I am a ballet mistress at the Atlanta Ballet, the ballet company which Twyla created The Princess & the Goblin upon. I initially came to help with the children involved in the ballet, which was the first time Twyla used kids in a ballet. My help transitioned to being an assistant as we had a great working relationship. After the first initial pocket of training I flew to New York, where Twyla lives, for a few weeks to work one-on-one. Here I learned the score and material.
It was awesome to see how Twyla wove the storyline together. To be involved with the process is so exciting! You’re the right hand to someone who is creating; it’s a beautiful and special experience.

NH: Do you have a favourite moment in The Princess & the Goblin?
SH: Great question, I have so many favourites! There’s a scene where we spend some time in the underground where the King and Queen Goblin live. There are beautiful vignettes and duets. There’s a scene where the goblin women find a pointe shoe (which are very symbolic in this ballet) for the first time. They do a duet with one pointe shoe on and a bare foot. There are some visually striking moments. You are transported into another place, another time.

NH: What was it like working with little kids for The Princess & the Goblin?
SH: Really fun! You look for personalities and kids that can handle the material, as the material isn’t easy. You look for kids that can really stand out; you want both the rascals and the sweet ones. You tap into their personalities and match them with the right Company members. You give the children direction, such as “this moment you have family time, this is your goblin dad who has stolen you, etc.” and watch them go. You don’t need to say any more than that!

NH: Tell me about your working relationship with Twyla Tharp.
SH: She is a genius! Twyla has created ballets on- and collaborated with- so many people. Twyla really appreciates hard work and people that are on top of it and sharp. Twyla appreciates people who are willing to learn and dive into the process.
Twyla taught me so much. I credit her as teaching me everything, specifically musicality. I wasn’t a ballet mistress the first time working with Twyla, but after working with her my Artistic Director hired me in that role. She’s unafraid… she sees the heart and soul of a person. Twyla is sharp and knows how to give you responsibility; how to grow in confidence and give you that sense of self and authority while working hard. She’s magic!

NH: What words would you use to describe The Princess & the Goblin?
SH: Magical and heartwarming. You see a princess grow in character, strength, and bravery. You see Irene as nurturing, warmth, and wisdom. You see these epic journeys of heart, soul, and character—it’s truly a heartwarming story.

NH: What can audience members expect from this ballet?
SH: To leave happy and feel self empowered. The Princess & the Goblin is about growing and finding strength and courage on your own. It’s funny, tender, and touching. The Princess & the Goblin is very fun to dance for the Company. When Twyla puts on a show, you are going to dance!

NH: Anything else to add?
SH: It’s a pleasure to come back and work with the RWB again. It’s great to see the Company and the growth; it’s so special to see them go back to The Princess & the Goblin. They’re a great Company!

Tickets are on sale now for Twyla Tharp’s The Princess & the Goblin! Running from September 27-October 1 at the Centennial Concert Hall, tickets begin at only $29 and are available online at rwb.org, in person through the RWB Customer Service Office at 380 Graham Avenue or by calling 204-956-2792. Groups of ten or more should contact the RWB Customer Service Office for more information on group discounts.