SUCCESS OF RWB’S 79TH SEASON SETS STAGE FOR 80TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
80TH SEASON DEDICATED TO MEMORY OF KATHLEEN RICHARDSON
At the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) Annual General Meeting in Winnipeg today, Board Chair Don Leitch and Artistic Director & CEO André Lewis reported continuing progress, despite challenges, in meeting the RWB’s twin goals of strengthening and stabilizing its finances while also presenting new and acclaimed productions to audiences in Canada and abroad.
Leitch and Lewis also paid tribute to Kathleen Richardson, who passed away September 14th after serving first as President and then as Honorary President for 62 of the RWB’s 80 years. On behalf of the RWB family they stated: “Kathleen Richardson was the best friend and most important champion the Royal Winnipeg Ballet ever had. Her generosity was legendary, and her wise guidance was a constant source of strength and inspiration. We are dedicating our 80th season to her memory.”
Artistic Director & CEO André Lewis reviewed the RWB’s exceptional 79th season noting is was filled with performances that delighted audiences, exciting opportunities, continued support from subscribers, donors, patrons, corporate and government partners and sponsors.
Last season’s theme was ‘Fearless’, a celebration of strength and perseverance among women. The season kicked off with a main stage performance of Lila York’s gripping interpretation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. RWB continued to dazzle audiences throughout the season with main stage performances of the seasonal favourite, Nutcracker, Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo & Juliet, along with Ballet & the Band – a mixed repertoire evening of works created by local choreographers and in collaboration with Winnipeg band The Bros. Landreth. In May they closed their season with the wildly successful Canadian premiere of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz.
“The company thrilled audiences with ballets from our classical repertoire all the way to contemporary unique exploratory works in Winnipeg and on tour,” said Lewis, “It was wonderful to see how so many of our artists rose to the challenges, connected with audiences and made our lives the richer for it. The Handmaid’s Tale and Vespers in Ottawa, Nutcracker on tour and in Winnipeg, Romeo and Juliet during the Valentine’s week-end and the premiere of The Wizard of Oz were all testament to the strength of the company.”
The RWB would have reported an operation surplus for 2018-2019 had it not been impacted by the first portion of a phased reduction in provincial government support for the school. The board and staff remain hopeful that the Province will restore its support levels in the coming year.
Board Chair Don Leitch stated: “We have responded effectively to our challenges and opportunities, and as an organization are committed to our new vision and mission to be “the heart of dance in Canada and the world”, and to “teach, create and perform, enriching lives through the power of exceptional dance.”
In June 2019, the RWB’s Board of Directors approved the signing of a Letter of Intent with True North, to consider options for new, state of the art school facilities for Professional Division Students.
“We are optimistic about this opportunity.” Leitch said, “We hope this joint effort will result in a major enhancement of our ability to attract and retain the highest calibre of young dancers from around the world.”
With its 79th year now in the past, the celebration of the RWB’s 80-year history will begin. Audiences will enjoy enriching and captivating performances starting with the Canadian premiere of Greg Horseman’s La Bayadère; to be followed by Four Old Legs, a work by James Kudelka, featuring the iconic and internationally renowned Evelyn Hart; the RWB’s classic Nutcracker; the return of audience favourite, Moulin Rouge ® - The Ballet and a Retrospective paying tribute to three Artistic Directors from the RWB’s past, with Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo, Mark Godden’s one-act masterpiece Angels in the Architecture and the classically beautiful Seventh Symphony. The season will close with May’s Spotlight featuring La Fille Mal Gardée and the RWB’s annual Aspirant performance On the Edge.
Leitch noted that the RWB 80th Anniversary coincides with Manitoba’s 150th anniversary, adding “we look forward to participating and contributing to our province’s celebrations”.