The Anna McCowan-Johnson Aspirant Program Director
“Lawson is our reigning princess of the dance stage and deserves to be adored.” — Winnipeg Free Press, 2012
“So it needs to be said that Lawson, in her 12th season with RWB, isn’t just dependable. She’s a shining artist one to celebrate and treasure as she deepens her interpretations and polishes her beautiful technique from one role to the next.”— Winnipeg Free Press, 2010
Vanessa Léonard (nee Lawson) has been gracing the studios and stages of the Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet since 1994 as a student, Principal dancer and most recently, as teacher and Company Ballet Master. Ms. Léonard received her early training from the Edmonton School of Ballet and the RWB School Professional Division before being hired into the RWB Company in 1997, where she steadily climbed the ranks until her promotion to Principal for the 2005-2006 season.
During a fifteen-year career, Ms. Léonard portrayed the lead female role in many well-known works; the first of such roles was in David Nixon’s Butterfly when Nixon picked Vanessa from the corps de ballet to perform the lead. In the 2001/02 season she worked with Sir Peter Wright to dance the dramatic and technical role of Giselle.
Other roles that Ms. Léonard enjoys include Odette/Odile in Galina Yardonova’s staging of Swan Lake, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Lucy in Mark Godden’s Dracula, Pamina in Mark Godden’s The Magic Flute, the tender Cours D’Amour in Mauricio Wainrot’s Carmina Burana and the lead role of Nancy in Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story. Ms. Léonard is known for roles that have been created on her including Tinker Bell in Jorden Morris’ Peter Pan; Destiny in Mauricio Wainrot’s Carmen, The Passion; March Hare in Shawn Hounsell’s Wonderland; and Natalie in Jorden Morris’s box-office hit Moulin Rouge® – The Ballet. In 2009 Ms. Léonard danced the role of Juliet in Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo & Juliet for which she was called “simply stunning” by the Winnipeg Free Press.
Ms. Léonard has appeared as a guest artist internationally, performing in galas with the Compania Nacional de Danza in Mexico City, the Benios De La Danse in Moscow, the 10th and 13th International Ballet Festivals of Miami, and the Encore International Dance Festival in Quebec. She has also been invited to dance with various companies and schools in full-length productions of Nutcracker, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty in Canada, the USA and Spain. In the fall of 2009, Ms. Léonard was hand selected by acclaimed choreographer Peter Quanz to perform a new piece called In Tandem at the prestigious Guggenheim Museum in New York City and at the 2010 Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa. As part of the Cultural Olympiad for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games she performed the lead in Hikarizatto.
Since retiring from the RWB Company in 2013, Ms. Léonard has applied her vast knowledge and expertise of the art form to her role as Company Ballet Master and instructor in the RWB Professional Division. She has also staged full length ballets for the RWB, Orlando Ballet and Louisville Ballet and is a sought-after guest teacher to companies and schools in Canada and internationally.
During a shining career, Ms. Léonard has always believed in the importance of mentorship; soaking in wisdom, technique and advice from everyone who has crossed her path. Now as a teacher and Ballet Master, she strives to impart that knowledge to the many artists and students she works with.
Vanessa left home at the age of 16 to further her studies at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division where she received the Prince Edward Award and graduated with distinction in 1996.
Place of Birth