May 28 2019 | Posted in Spotlight

RWB School Celebrates Five Years of Sharing Dance

Calling all Winnipeggers! The city’s biggest all-access dance party returns to the Axworthy Health and RecPlex on May 31 for Sharing Dance Day. Sharing Dance Day, a nation-wide celebration of physical health and wellbeing, social engagement, and artistic inspiration, is free, open to the public, and attracts more than 20,000 people to events around the country. For the fifth year in a row, the Royal RWB School and program founder Canada’s National Ballet School invites participants of all ages and abilities to join Sharing Dance Day, presented by Shaw Communications.

The event, which runs from 10:15 AM – 12:15 PM and is emceed by CBC Now or Never hosts Trevor Dineen and Ify Chiwetelu, features performances by Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, the RWB School, Gearshifting, B.O.S.S. Dance Team, traditional hoop dancer Shanley Spence, and Folklorama performers Viva Brasil . The 2019 Sharing Dance choreography is inspired by the theme ‘roots & identity’ and is a fusion of hip hop, contemporary, and African dance styles.

This year’s choreographers Philippe-Alexandre Jacques, RWB School Professional Division grad and former School artistic faculty, and Esie Mensah came together to create a unique piece of choreography that explores how familial, cultural, and community roots influence identity.

The Sharing Dance choreography was taught both online and through weekly free dance classes at the RWB from February 5 - May 28. Sharing Dance was also available in the classroom via the facilitated Sharing Dance program. RWB artistic faculty worked with students and teachers in Winnipeg’s underserved neighbourhoods to promote physical and emotional wellbeing by incorporating dance and movement into the classroom.

Other Signature Official Sharing Dance Day events are also taking place in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.

Please click here for a recent Winnipeg Sharing Dance Day video and here for a video on the facilitated program. To learn more about Sharing Dance, please visit,, or call the RWB School Office at 204.957.3467.

On the Edge Closes RWB’s 2018/19 Season

On the Edge gives audiences a front-row seat to experience the passion and intensity of RWB School Aspirants during this diverse programme of new creations and timeless classics.

This year’s production will feature breathtaking classical pas de deuxs such as the Black Swan, Blue Bird, Esmeralda, the Diana, and Acteon.

The evening will then move into a more contemporary finish and feature an audience favourite: A Beautiful Lie along with a new all-female piece, both choreographed by Gabriela Rehak, as well as a new piece choreographed by Larouche.

The unique flow of this performance allows audience members to witness the versatility of the dancers in an intimate theatre where every seat in the house allows you to follow every step, facial expression, and truly be swept away with provoking narratives and the fearlessness of dancers about to embark on a professional career in dance.

Tickets to On the Edge and more information on the production can be found here.

RWB Dancer Farewells

At the end of the season, the RWB bid farewell to much-loved Principal dancer Jo-Ann Sundermeier and her husband, Company Soloist Josh Reynolds.

Jo-Ann has had a storied career with the RWB. Arriving in 1997 as a 14-year-old student in the RWB School Professional Division, she joined the Company as an Apprentice in 2003 and rose to the rank of Principal dancer in 2012. She has toured the world with the Company and danced many of the major roles in the RWB’s repertoire including the lead in Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty’s Princess Aurora and Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. Of all her roles, the one she says she will remember most fondly is dancing Juliet in this season’s Romeo & Juliet opposite her husband Josh. The couple, who married in 2017, welcomed their daughter Ayla in 2018. Ayla’s arrival and the desire to be closer to family led to their decision to move back to the US this summer.

Josh and Jo-Ann are leaving the RWB with mixed emotions. While is difficult to leave the RWB and all their friends within the organization, they are excited to be nearer to family and begin a new chapter in their careers. The couple accepted teaching positions with the Schramel Conservatory of Dance in New Orleans, where they will also have an opportunity to perform with the New Orleans Ballet Theater.

Second Soloist Saeka Shirai will be leaving at the end of the season to fulfill her life-long dream of dancing in Europe. Saeka graduated from the RWB School’s Professional Division and joined the Company in 2015. In 2016 she and fellow dancer Yue Shi represented the RWB in Varna, winning silver medals.

We also wish a fond farewell to Corps de Ballet dancers Erika Delponte and Tyler Carver and Apprentices Erin Atkinson, Kolbie Edwards and Peter-Nicholas Taylor, who will be leaving the RWB at the end of this season. We thank them for gracing our stage and we wish them the very best in the future.

Everybody Dance Now!

It’s time to add “dance class” to your summer to-do list!

Every July, adults of all ages gather at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School to take classes that are available twice a week. Classes, that suit all skill levels, are available in ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop and modern, and are taught by some of the most talented dance teachers in Winnipeg.

Attending twice a week allows the body and mind to pick up on technique faster, which allows for real improvement in just 5 weeks.

“We’ve been running this program for a long time because it offers something unique to the downtown Winnipeg community. Whether you’re a professional who works downtown or perhaps a suburban parent looking for an activity to get you out of the house, it’s the perfect fit.” says Recreational Division Principal Nicole Kepp.

All of the RWB School’s ballet instructors have been at the RWB for more years than they will admit but can turn two left feet into two turned out feet in no time!

Chelsea Humble, a recent Teacher Training Program graduate, says her favourite aspect about Adult Summer Dance is how much fun everyone has! “The vibe is super relaxed, and everyone has a great time just moving their bodies. I can’t wait to teach tap dance this summer!”

Claire Marshall, one of our Adult Summer Dance instructors, is a graduate of the Senior Professional Program at the School of Contemporary Dancers and has been performing locally, nationally and internationally with and for Young Lungs Dance Exchange, Gearshifting Performance Works, Winnipeg Fringe Festival and at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ opening. Claire teaches modern dance in both the Professional and Recreational Divisions and recently added motherhood to her resume - she certainly cherishes time with adults!

Adult Summer Dance hip hop instructor Tracy “Trigger Tray” Tomchuk started dancing with the RWB School almost 20 years ago and hasn’t stopped dancing since. She self-describes as an artist of many mediums; however, when it comes to dance, her main concentration has been the study of Breaking, African dance, and hip hop - including training with the BOSS Dance Team.

Last, but not least, Sara Goodman, the RWB School’s newest jazz teacher has used her love of dance to conquer fears and build courage as a child; and is excited to work with adults to do the same.

Regardless of age, whether you’ve never tried a dance class before or used to dance competitively, RWB School’s Adult Summer Dance has a class for you.

Interested in learning more? Please click here for further information.

Greenroom: Q + A with Sharing Dance Choreographer Philippe-Alexandre Jacques

Nearly 1,000 people will gather in the Axworthy Health and Rec Plex on Friday, May 31 to celebrate Sharing Dance Day. We had the opportunity to catch up with one of this year’s choreographers, Philippe-Alexandre Jacques, for a behind-the-scenes look at the 2019 Sharing Dance choreography.

What inspired this year’s Sharing Dance choreography?
This year’s choreography theme is inspired by the concept of roots, as in our family roots as well as our community roots. Esie and I wished to encourage people to delve into not only their family history, but also their community histories, to learn about their past and their present, to inform their identity and future journeys. The dance itself is a journey through different steps of getting to know our roots.

How long did it take to complete?
Esie Mensah and I, the co-choreographers, as well as Ashleigh Powell from the National Ballet School started the process of discussing music options a couple of months before starting the choreography. The choreographic part of the process happened over the course of three days at the National Ballet School’s studios in Toronto.

Do you have a favourite moment in the Sharing Dance choreography?
I really enjoy the chorus, or the “building” section, where we take all the knowledge that we’ve learned about our communities and our pasts, and we organize it within our own bodies. It’s also just a fun moment in the music when the beat drops.

How was creating Sharing Dance different than other pieces of work?
Though I have often collaborated in creations with communities not related to dance, this is the first time I’ve ever co-choreographed a piece with a fellow choreographer. It was wonderful to work with Esie and watching her artistry at work. We had a great time building and sharing.

What was the most challenging and/or most rewarding, element of creating this new work?
The most rewarding part of creating the Sharing Dance Day routine is knowing this might spark an interest in dance in Canadians coast to coast. Dance and dancing brings me much joy, and I hope to be able to share that joy through this routine.

What do you hope the audience takes away from this new piece?
I hope they can find joy in the movement and in the music, and I hope they take the opportunity to reflect on their roots while learning this routine.

Any advice for aspiring choreographers?
To quote choreographer Twyla Tharp, “Creativity is a Habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits.”

What are you working on now?
I am currently participating as a dancer in the show Q Dance, which runs June 6-8 in Winnipeg at the Gas Station Arts Center. I will then be going to Ballet Victoria to create a new piece for their company.

Stay up to date with Philippe-Alexandre Jacques’ projects by visiting his website here.