September Company Spotlight 2016

Sep 23 2016 | Posted in Spotlight

Q + A with RWB’s Original Dracula, Johnny Chang

RWB’s Dracula, choreographed by Mark Godden, is returning this season as the Company’s 77th season opener. The Dracula name evokes dread and horror but, most of all, fascination. Portraying this character is no easy task, yet this challenge is brought to life each time the role is taken on. We sat down with RWB’s original Dracula, Johnny Chang, to learn more about what it was like being the first to perform this role, the creative process behind the character, and what audience should expect to see in this year’s production.


RWB former company dancers Tara Birtwhistle and Johnny Chang Photo: David Cooper

How did you prepare for this role being RWB’s first Dracula?
“I would watch movies and read books; I was often trying to find different movies and books. I would search for Dracula’s personalities and roles for inspiration. Although ballet technique is important, acting is very important when you do these types of character roles. Even though there are different Dracula styles in movies and books, it would still give me a sense of how to act. I would also have to make sure this is what Mark Godden wanted.

What are some characteristics of this character which you find most complex?
Normally people think Dracula is a dark character. Mark Godden wanted sexy, elegant, power—he was very clear about that. It is a little bit complicated because most people think of Dracula and think of his dark side. Godden wanted to make sure Dracula’s power came from the inside, not the outside. He [Godden] really wanted you to stand there and have people feel your power. When someone who really has power stands in front of you, you feel the power. They don’t need to talk.”

What was it like working with Mark Godden for this production?
”I worked with him before, but this was the first full-length ballet he did—in fact, this was the first full-length ballet he did for the Company. It was a very good experience, he was very open with me. We talked a lot and he tried to tell me what he wanted. If I didn’t understand, I would ask him. Godden allowed me to draw from personal experiences, such as the third act with the knife play. Here I drew knowledge from my Chinese Kung Fu background.”

What is your favorite part of the ballet?
”To be Dracula! Specifically the third act when the choir comes in—I really like the music. By the time this point comes, you really have a sense of your confidence, and that shows your power. At that point in the ballet, Godden wanted all the power to talk. I still get goosebumps every time I hear that music.”

How has this ballet evolved over the years?
”Godden was last here in 2010, so when he came it was to make improvements on the story and to make the dancing better. I don’t see that much change other than that. For the dancers, it is hard to say what is better—I don’t want to judge that. Everyone has their own personality and everyone thinks in different ways.”

What advice would you give to Liang Xing, this season’s Dracula?
”They really have to know that this ballet isn’t only about dancing. When I coach I always tell them that they have to know the role very well and you have to know why you moved here and there; every time you do a step there is always meaning.”

Why would you recommend audiences should see this production?
”1. Dracula is one of the best ballets of Mark Godden.
2. Mahler’s music is fantastic- it really matters.
3. This version of Dracula is one of the best in the world, and there are many. And, of course, we have great dancers. When you put all of the above together, you have an excellent show!”

For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, visit

Manitoba Dance Day Joins RWB’s Dance Downtown


Chenxin Liu Photo: Réjean Brandt Photography

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Dance Downtown during Culture Days is hosting this year’s Manitoba Dance Day with Dance Manitoba and Rainbow Stage on Sunday, October 2, 2016 from 12:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Participants of all levels and ages are welcome to take part in FREE dance workshops at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Building. Everyone who participates will learn a piece of choreography that will be performed at the end of the afternoon. There will be three different classes made available to accommodate beginner, intermediate and advanced level dancers.

“I always get excited when we have the opportunity to share our art form and our passion in any possible way, that’s what makes Dance Downtown such a great event, it allows us to open our doors and connect with the community, at close range, in an environment where everyone is welcome to participate and experience why we love dance so much,” shared Jaime Vargas, RWB Ballet Master and Community Outreach Coordinator.

This fun hands-on activity is a creative contribution to the national Culture Days 2016 weekend, a cross-country volunteer initiative to help raise awareness, participation and engagement in arts and culture activities and events in our communities. The event will also include a photo board for photos and a craft table. The complete schedule is listed below:

12:00 - 12:30 p.m. Registration
12:30 - 2:30 p.m. Dance class
2:30 - 3:00 p.m. Break
3:00 p.m. Performance


Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents Dance Downtown’s first Annual Manitoba Dance Day with Dance Manitoba and Rainbow Stage Location:
RWB Building, 380 Graham Avenue
Sunday, October 2, 2016 from 12:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Free admission. Tickets not required.

2016/17 International Audition Tour


RWB School Professional Division students Photo by Jerry Grajewski

RWB’s International Audition Tour returns for another opportunity for talented young dancers from all over to audition for an invitation to further develop their skills in RWB’s prestigious Professional Division School. Students who participate in the 2016/17 International Audition Tour are auditioning to gain acceptance into the Professional Division Summer Session (July 2017) in Winnipeg, which serves as the second audition phase to gain acceptance into Regular Session (September 2017 to June 2018).

Registration for the 2016/17 International Audition Tour is now open. The registration form can be found here.


RWB Alumni Association President Nominated for Travel Manitoba Award


Former RWB company dancers Marilyn Marshall and David Shields Photo: Campbell and Chipman

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is proud to announce that Marilyn Marshall, President of RWB’s Alumni Association and former RWB Company Dancer, is nominated for Travel Manitoba’s Manitoba Tourism Award in the category of Volunteer of the Year.

“So little time, so much to do” is a common phrase heard within the four walls of the RWB building. The caliber of what the Royal Winnipeg Ballet produces wouldn’t be possible without our dedicated volunteers. It goes without saying that we couldn’t be more elated that Marilyn is a nominee. Marilyn’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed within the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and now, through Travel Manitoba’s Awards, we can help give Marilyn the public recognition she deserves.

The Manitoba Tourism Awards Celebration is on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at The Viscount Gort Hotel Banquet and Conference Centre. For more information on the event, please click here.

Can’t attend the celebration but want to stay in the loop? Follow our updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

Are you or anyone you know an RWB alumni? Please click here for more information on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Alumni Association.

Green Room

A behind the scenes look at the RWB’s Company photo shoot

During the third week of September we held our 2016/2017 (and some of the top-secret projects we’re working on for 2018!) photo shoot and we can’t wait to share the pictures with you.In the meantime though, here are some behind-the-scenes pictures we took of the dancers- enjoy!

Photo Shoot

RWB Company Dancer: Yoshiko Kamikusa; Photo Credit: Jillian Luna

Photo Shoot

RWB Company Dancers; Photo Credit: Heather Milne

Photo Shoot

Just a few of the many costumes that were shot over the three day long photo shoot; Photo Credit: Heather Milne

Photo Shoot

RWB Company Dancers; Photo Credit: Heather Milne