Royal Winnipeg Ballet

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Arnold Spohr (1927—2010)

Brian MacDonald (b. 1928)


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The oldest of Canada's major ballet companies. It began in 1938 as the Winnipeg Ballet Club, founded by Gweneth Lloyd and Betty Farrally and gave its first semi-professional performances as the Winnipeg Ballet in 1939. It became fully professional in 1949 and was the first company to be granted a (British) royal charter in 1955. The company performed mostly populist works choreographed by Lloyd, such as Shadow in the Prairie (1952), but few of these survived a fire in 1954, and the company entered a period of some confusion until Arnold Spohr was appointed director (1958–88). Under him, a new generation of Canadian choreographers emerged, creating works with a popular local appeal, including Brian Macdonald's The Shining People of Leonard Cohen (1970) and Norbert Vesak's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (1971), about a Native Canadian's doomed experience of the big city. Ballets were also acquired from, among others, Neumeier, Araiz, V. Nebrada, and de Mille. In 1970 Spohr founded a school which led to significant improvements in the company's classical dancing and produced Evelyn Hart who won the Gold Medal at Varna in 1980. With a ballerina in the company he was able to stage classic ballets like Giselle (1982) and Swan Lake (1987). Spohr was succeeded by Henny Jurriëns (1988–9), John Meehan (1989–93), William Whitener (1993–5), and André Lewis (1995). The company's versatile mix has been retained with new populist works such as Jacques Lemay's Anne of Green Gables (1989) and Jorden Morris's Peter Pan, acquisitions of ballets by Balanchine, van Manen, Kylián, Tharp, and Itzik Galili, Meehan's new staging of Sleeping Beauty (1993), and works by emerging Canadian choreographers like Peter Quanz and the company's resident choreographer Mark Godden (appointed 1990). Its economic size (28 dancers) allows the company to tour widely both in Canada and abroad.

http://www.rwb.org Website for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Subjects: Dance.

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