Sep 17 2018 | Posted in Press Releases

RWB Dancer Alanna McAdie in costume for

The Handmaid’s Tale opens Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s 79th season

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB)’s female-led 79th season of mainstage productions begins in the world of Gilead. The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the critically acclaimed novel by Canadian literary giant Margaret Atwood, returns to the Centennial Concert Hall from October 10-14 for the first time since the ballet made its World Premiere five years ago.

Choreographer Lila York’s dance-drama portrays a dystopian future where the audience shadows the restricted, yet resilient, Offred as she navigates a world where women’s rights have been stripped away in this powerful interpretation of Atwood’s gripping novel.

“Creating a ballet based on Margaret Atwood’s prescient novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, has been a longstanding and passionate wish for me,” says York. “In the years since the novel’s debut in 1985 it has only grown in relevance and importance. Once seen as ‘controversial’, the story, its premise and its characters, are now fully part of our culture and our lexicon. It has been a privilege for me to work with RWB and their brilliant and dedicated dancers on this project. I am deeply indebted to Ms. Atwood for her support and her wisdom.”

Atwood’s dystopian bestselling classic was published in 1985 and has returned to the bestseller list in wake of the 2016 American Presidential election. Translated into over 40 languages, Atwood’s Governor General Award-winning novel has been adapted to film, opera, a novel-to-radio series, an award-winning audiobook, graphic novel, television series, and York’s ballet, commissioned by RWB Artistic Director and CEO André Lewis in 2013.

“Through dialogue with Margaret Atwood, Lila York spent nearly a decade re-imagining the dystopian world of Gilead to enthrall our audience,” says RWB Artistic Director and CEO André Lewis. “Written over 30 years ago, The Handmaid’s Tale rings truer than ever as we observe the current political climate. York’s powerful reimagining of this stirring tale, when brought to life by the athleticism of our Company dancers, is sure to spark conversation and leave a lasting impression.”

To transport audiences, York assembled a team of top international talent in lighting, design and costuming. Innovative set designer Clifton Taylor, who has worked with the world’s leading dance and opera companies, was assisted by Anshuman Bhatia to bring the world so vividly imagined by Atwood to the stage. Designer Liz Vandal, lauded for her cutting-edge fashion design and costuming for Cirque du Soleil and Marie Chouinard, created original costuming to fit the narrative’s dark romanticism.

Set to a pastiche score of renowned composers, including James MacMillan, Arvo Pärt, and John Corigliano, among others, the thought-provoking ballet will provide a rich array of new characters to showcase the energy and theatricality of the RWB Company dancers.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of its Funders – Department of Canadian Heritage, Canada Council for the Arts, Manitoba Tourism, Manitoba Arts Council, Winnipeg Arts Council, The Winnipeg Foundation, and Manitoba Sport, Culture, and Heritage, our Production and Student Matinee Supporter Richardson Foundation and Performance Sponsors Arnold Brothers Transport and Qualico, as well as the generous support of patrons, sponsors and donors.

The Handmaid’s Tale Events:

RWB Book Club: All are welcome to join as the RWB ventures alongside this season’s four protagonists: The Handmaid Tale’s Offred, Clara from Nutcracker, Juliet from Romeo & Juliet, and The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy. The Handmaid Tale’s Book Club will meet after the Friday, October 12 performance. More information here.

Pre-show Chats: Join us thirty minutes prior to each performance at the Centennial Concert Hall for a chat between RWB artistic staff and local media. Admission is free with The Handmaid’s Tale ticket.

Meet the Dancers: RWB dancers will be available for photos and to sign autographs on October 11 and 14 immediately following the performance.

Backstage Tour: Join us for an intimate look at the exciting world of dance behind the scenes on Saturday, October 13 following the performance. Tickets to the tour are free, but limited, and available at intermission.

“Billed as a ‘dance-drama,’ the renowned New York-based choreographer succeeds at creating a darkly theatrical world complete with onstage technicians scanning the stage and audience with penetrating searchlights. Unfolding as a series of 16 scenes, the episodic plot-driven ballet, performed en pointe, highlights the key moments in the story’s narrative arc as well as plumbing the characters’ emotional relationships.”
-Holly Harris, The Winnipeg Free Press, October 17/13

“The RWB is to be commended for taking artistic risk in an age of caution by commissioning this brave new work. Ten years in the making since first conceived, York’s vision breathes new life into a venerable Canadian classic while literally embodying the story’s dark forces, with its sobering message as timely — and relevant — as ever.”
-Holly Harris, The Winnipeg Free Press, October 17/13

“Liz Vandal’s wonderful costumes capture Gilead to perfection. The stylish red tunics for the handmaids are a sharp contrast to the 1950s shirtwaists of the wives. Clifton Taylor’s set evokes the starkness of Gilead society with its towering steel gallery and staircase.”
- Paula Citron, The Globe & Mail, October 18/13