Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Returns to Jacob’s Pillow for First Time in Nearly a Half-Century

Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet in In Tandem; photo Richard Termine courtesy Works & Process at Guggenheim and Gaynor Minden

(BECKET, Mass.) – Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet returns to Jacob’s Pillow this week for the first time since their historic two-week engagement in 1964, a high-profile showcase that launched the company toward international recognition, in a packed program that features works by award-winning choreographers Peter Quanz, Mark Godden, and Mauricio Wainrot, at the Ted Shawn Theatre from Wednesday, August 1, 2012, through Sunday, August 5.

The varied program opens with Canadian choreographer Peter Quanz’s In Tandem, a dynamic choreographic work set to the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning score, Double Sextet, by American composer Steve Reich. Originally commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process Series, In Tandem is a fast-paced and pointed neo-classical ballet that Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times praised for its “smartly expansive vocabulary [that] is full of chic.”

Quanz, a former dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet, is an award-winning choreographer whose work has been presented by acclaimed companies such as American Ballet Theatre, the Mariinsky Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, and the National Ballet of Canada. Quanz’s work was most recently seen at the Pillow earlier this season, when Luminous was performed by the Hong Kong Ballet to critical and audience acclaim.

The program continues with Moonlight Sonata, an excerpt from AS ABOVE, SO BELOW, by Montréal-based American choreographer Mark Godden, who describes the ballet as a meditation on “Who we are and who we struggle to be … there’s who you love and then there’s who you are.” The pas de deux, set to the eponymous piano music by Ludwig van Beethoven, explores the purity of romantic love in the human imagination.

Although it premiered in 2001, Moonlight Sonata was presented as part of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver, when Royal Winnipeg Ballet performed in a rare collaboration with National Ballet of Canada. Godden has created original works for dance companies across Canada and the United States as well as in Latin America. A former Resident Choreographer for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Godden has received numerous awards for his ballets at international ballet competitions and his full-length ballet Dracula, a Royal Winnipeg Ballet commission, was adapted into an International Emmy Award-winning film.

Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Carmina Burana; photo Bruce Monk

The triple-bill concludes with Argentinean choreographer Mauricio Wainrot’s larger-than-life Carmina Burana. Originally commissioned for Royal Ballet of Flanders in 1998, this work has been a staple in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet repertoire since 2002. The five-part work is set to the iconic score of the same name by composer Carl Orff and features the full company in this powerful and visually-stunning theatrical production that the Winnipeg Free Press calls an “unforgettable…boiling cauldron of choreography.”

Wainrot, one of Argentina’s most celebrated choreographers, is currently the artistic director of Ballet Contemporáneo del Teatro San Martín of Buenos Aires. More than forty companies have premiered Wainrot’s works, including English National Ballet, Göteborg Opera of Sweden, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet, among many others.

Founded in 1939, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is the longest continually operating ballet company in North America, and the first recipient of a royal title granted under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1958, Arnold Spohr was appointed artistic director. Under Spohr’s direction the Royal Winnipeg Ballet grew and developed to take its place among the world’s internationally renowned companies, most notably after their emergence at Jacob’s Pillow, where founder Ted Shawn heralded them as “the glittering crown jewel of the 1964 season.” Time magazine acclaimed the “youth, boldness, and exuberance” of the company while Spohr said of that engagement, “That’s where we became famous.”

In 1996 André Lewis was named artistic director. During his tenure, he has brought in choreographers from Canada and abroad to present new and innovative works.

Versatility, technical excellence, and captivating finesse are the hallmarks of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, a company that Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times says, “succeeds to an impressive extent in proving it can dance in just about any style.”

“The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is one of the most accomplished and appealing ballet companies in the world, yet is rarely seen in the U.S.” comments Ella Baff, executive and artistic director of Jacob’s Pillow. “A great deal of cooperation made it possible to overcome an expansive geographic distance so that the Pillow could present this exciting program of varied and superb dance and music.”

Six dancers currently affiliated with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet are alumni of The School at Jacob’s Pillow Ballet Program under the direction of Anna-Marie Holmes. Three of these dancers, Tristan Dobrowney, Harrison James, and Sophia Lee, are set to perform during the company’s Pillow engagement.

Free PillowTalk: Royal Winnipeg Ballet: Past, Present, Future

Friday, August 3 at 5pm

This survey of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet begins with tales of its auspicious 1964 Pillow debut, while Artistic Director André Lewis speaks about current successes and dancers look to challenges ahead. FREE




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