ROYAL WINNIPEG BALLET DANCERS ON THE RISE
Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) proudly announces the promotion of four artists and the addition of eight for their upcoming 80th season.
RWB’s new roster features Elizabeth Lamont’s promotion from second soloist to soloist, Yue Shi’s promotion from second soloist to soloist, Katie Bonnell’s promotion from corps de ballet to second soloist, and Stephan Azulay’s promotion from corps de ballet to second soloist.
“I’m extremely grateful every day for this career- it is a real gift,” says Lamont. “My sense of belonging to the RWB audience has continued to encourage my creativity and development as an artist. I continue to dream big about what I can achieve, and I am so excited to continue creating memories on our prairie stage.”
“A promotion is a very important and meaningful step in the career of an artist,” says RWB Artistic Director and CEO André Lewis. “Promotions further recognize our dancers’ talent, growth, and increase sophistication and mastery of the art form and its technical demand. It is always gratifying to be recognized and I am delighted to reward these outstanding dancers.”
For their anniversary season, the RWB welcomes back Tristan Dobrowney as soloist while welcoming Sarah Joan Smith, formerly of Kansas City Ballet, Joshua Hidson, formerly of Ballet Kelowna, and recent RWB School Professional Division graduate Michel Lavoie to the corps de ballet. Lavoie will be the first RWB dancer in 8 years to skip apprentice and join straight into the RWB corps.
Recent RWB School Aspirants Jenna Burns, Amanda Solheim, and Bryce Taylor, along with Parker Long, formerly of Colorado Ballet, join as RWB apprentices.
Elizabeth Lamont: Ontario-born Lamont is a graduate of the RWB School. She joined the RWB Company as apprentice in 2010, the corps in 2011, then was promoted mid-season to second soloist in 2014. She made her principal role debut as Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale followed by Clara in Nutcracker while being in the corps. Other major roles include Nathalie in the widely successful Moulin Rouge® – The Ballet, the Bluebird pas de deux in The Sleeping Beauty and was selected by James Kudelka to perform the show-stopping Summer lead in his ballet The Four Seasons. In 2019, Lamont reprised the iconic role of Juliet and has performed it across Canada as well as on tour in China. Lamont ended the 2019 season with dancing Glinda the Good Witch in the Canadian premiere of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz.
Yue Shi: Born in China, Shi began studying ballet at the Liaoning Ballet School at the age of 10. Throughout his training, he has participated in many international ballet competitions and garnered several awards. Shi was invited to join the RWB School Aspirant Program when he competed at the Jackson International Ballet Competition. Shi joined the RWB Company as an apprentice in 2015 and has danced the roles of Prince (Nutcracker), pas de six (Giselle), and Jester (Swan Lake). In the summer of 2016, Shi won Silver in the prestigious Varna International Ballet Competition. In the beginning of 2017, Shi guest performed the role of Prince (Sleeping Beauty) with Sofia National Opera Ballet. Shi is the recent gold-medal winner in the senior division of the Shangai International Ballet Competition.
Tristan Dobrowney: Originally from Saskatoon, Dobrowney graduated from the RWB School Professional Division and was chosen as a participant in the Banff Professional Dance Program. From 2008 to 2016, he danced with the RWB and was promoted to second soloist. In 2016, Dobrowney joined the Lviv National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Ukraine where he held principal roles in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Scheherazade, Coppelia, Carmen Suite, Giselle, Snow White, and Carmina Burana. Under the artistic direction of Canadian choreographer Peter Quanz (Q Dance), he danced the part of the “Foreigner” in The Red Crowned Crane with the Wuxi Song and Dance Theater, touring Canada and China. Dobrowney returned to Canada with the Atlantic Ballet for its 2018-19 season, dancing lead roles in Don Juan and Figaro.
Stephan Azulay: London-born Azulay trained at the Academy Ballet in Sydney, Australia, from 2006-08. From there, he obtained his Advanced Diploma in Dance, Certificate III in Dance, from the Victorian College of the Arts. Azulay continued his ballet training at the Australian Ballet School from 2009-11. Following this, Azulay danced for two years with the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group and three years with the Nevada Ballet Theatre. Azulay has performed as Bluebird (Sleeping Beauty), Von Rothbart (Swan Lake), Mercutio and Romeo (Romeo & Juliet), Nick (The Handmaid’s Tale), Albrecht (Giselle), and the Scarecrow in the Canadian premiere of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz.
Katie Bonnell: Originally from Oakville, Ontario, Bonnell started dancing with Virginia Fleming and Sarah Baeumler before beginning her training at the RWB School Professional Division in 2008. She joined the Aspirant Program in 2011, was accepted into the RWB Company as an apprentice in 2013, the corps in 2015, and second soloist in time for the RWB’s 2019-20 season. Bonnell has performed several lead and featured roles including Annie (Going Home Star - Truth and Reconciliation), Lucy (Dracula), Dark Angel (Serenade), Sugar Plum Fairy and the Arabian pas de deux (Nutcracker), Stepsister (Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story), Tall Swans (Swan Lake). She has also performed various roles in Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge® - The Ballet, The Four Seasons, and Peter Quanz’s Luminous.
Sarah Joan Smith: From Columbia, SC, Smith began her training at eight in Kiev, Ukraine. Smith attended summer intensives at The Rock School for Dance Education, American Ballet Theatre, Ballet West, San Francisco Ballet, and Boston Ballet. She graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2012. Following graduation, she performed as a trainee with Boston Ballet and Boston Ballet II. Smith joined Richmond Ballet’s second company where she performed ballets such as George Balanchine’s Mozartiana and The Four Temperaments, John Butler’s Carmina Burana and Salvatore Aiello’s The Rite of Spring. She joined Kansas City Ballet (KCB) in 2016 where Smith performed in many ballets, such as Balanchine’s Theme and Variations and Diamonds and enjoyed featured roles in Devon Carney’s The Sleeping Beauty, Val Caniparoli’s The Lottery, and Septime Weber’s The Wizard of Oz. Further, Smith toured China, performing at the Meet in Beijing Festival, as well as other cities in the country. She toured to The John F Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in 2017, where she performed the Nutcracker with KCB.
Joshua Hidson: Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Hidson moved to Victoria at the age of 17 to further his education at the Victoria Academy of Ballet. There, he completed the two-year post-secondary Bridge Program, under the direction of KerryLynn Turner- former artist with Ballet British Columbia. While training at the Academy, Hidson was fortunate to work with numerous guest teachers and choreographers, including John Alleyne, Jorden Morris, and Alysa Pires. In the summer of 2018, Hidson was selected to apprentice under the direction of Wen Wei Wang in Dance Victoria’s annual Choreographic Lab. The following fall, he was invited to perform with Ballet Kelowna as a guest artist in their tour of John Alleyne’s A Streetcar Named Desire.
Michel Lavoie: Winnipeg-born Lavoie began dance lessons at the age of six at the RWB School Recreational Division. At 11, Lavoie joined the RWB School Professional Division where he graduated from in 2018. While a student in the Professional Division, Lavoie danced in many notable ballets with the RWB Company, such as Nutcracker (dancing lead roles Dieter and Julian), Twyla Tharp’s The Princess & the Goblin, Rudy van Dantzig’s Romeo & Juliet, and the Canadian premiere of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz. Further, Lavoie is a two-time winner of the prestigious Prince Edward Award and soared straight into the corps de ballet after one year in the RWB School’s Aspirant Program.
Jenna Burns: Burns, originally from New York, trained in the RWB School’s Aspirant Program from 2017-19. During this time, Burns danced with the RWB Company in Balanchine’s Serenade, Lila York’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Nutcracker, Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo & Juliet, and the Canadian premiere of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz.
Amanda Solheim: Solheim, originally from Burnaby, BC, joined the RWB School Professional Division after growing up dancing numerous styles in competitive dance studios. At 16, Solheim moved to the Pacific Dance Arts where she trained for two years before completing two years in the RWB School Aspirant Program. Notable roles for Solheim are Swanilda in Coppelia, the Black Swan pas de deux, the Napoli pas de six, and the Swan corps de ballet in Swan Lake, as well as the Willie corps de ballet in Giselle.
Parker Long: Colorado-born Long began his studies at the Colorado Conservatory of Dance. At 17, he began training with the Pre-Professional Division at Colorado Ballet Academy. During the summer of 2018, he was invited to train at the Royal Ballet School at Covent Garden where he received the Certificate of Achievement. In 2018, Long joined the Studio Company of Colorado Ballet. During his time at Colorado Ballet, he performed the roles of Munchkin, Yellow Brick Roadie, Poppy, and Emerald City Poser in Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz, as well as Carabosse Attendant and Mazurka Corps in The Sleeping Beauty. Other notable roles include Siegfried from Swan Lake and Ivan from Firebird. Long recently was a guest artist with Colorado Ballet Academy, performing the role of Albrecht in Giselle.
Bryce Taylor: Ontario-born Taylor began his ballet training at age 16 in the RWB School Professional Division. After graduating, Taylor joined the RWB School Aspirant Program for two years. Notable roles for Taylor have been dancing with the Russian scene with the RWB Company in Nutcracker, the Lankedem pas d’esclave, and the lead man in the premiere of Jera Wolfe’s Reminiscence. Further, Taylor is the two-time winner of the René Highway Scholarship.