If you don’t know this about me yet, I’m a huge balletomane. I’ve studied ballet for well over two decades, I track down and read pretty much any book published on ballet, and whenever I travel I make it a point to see any company in that city. I am incredibly lucky to have the Royal Winnipeg Ballet here, and unless I’m dying I am usually at any sort of event that they put on (see Ballet in the Park)- that includes Barre After Hours! Barre is one of my favourite events of the entire year, and 2017’s was no exception….
Barre After Hours is essentially a cocktail event hosted by the RWB as a way for you to mingle with the dancers and get a feeling for what is going on with the company. For those of us fairly informed, it’s a great chance to see what’s going on with the dancers themselves, and for those that are newer to the Winnipeg ballet scene, it’ the perfect way to get to the company and what kinds of productions they have. I’ve noticed that a lot of companies will do a “beer and ballet” kind of event, but I love that this is one step above and closer to a cocktail party.
This year, Barre took place at the heart of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet- right in the atrium of the school! I wasn’t 100% sure how this would go- this is normally where I warm up and stretch for ballet class, and I didn’t know if I would still get that feeling. However, I think that it was a brilliant idea to host it at the school! The RWB event staff did an amazing job at transforming the space- the lights, the foliage, the draping, the chandelier, everything was perfect and it really did feel like you were somewhere else entirely. It was the right amount of “somewhere else” and “here at home”, and I am excited to see more events there!
Part of the evening’s entertainment was a contortionist act- I have to say, I was fascinated. They worked together but didn’t mirror each other, and I watched them for at least fifteen minutes. It was a good choice for an event like this, as it provides something for people to watch and be entertained by but it also doesn’t mean that you have to stop talking to whomever you are speaking with to watch/listen. I had never seen contortionists in person before (I’m one of those rare people who has yet to catch Cirque du Soleil) but I would love to see more of it!
There were two different dance performances- this piece was choregraphed by company member Yosuke Mino and was performed by students in the Aspirant program at the school. A modern/contemporary piece set to music that I would only describe as “Tetris chic”, this was so much fun to watch and was the perfect surprise! Out of nowhere above your head six dancers are striding down the corridor to techno music- you can’t help but stop whatever you are doing and watching. There wasn’t any dancing at Barre last year, so I loved that this was a snapshot into the actual dancing!
Jo Ann Sundermeier spoke on behalf of the company, as principal dancer, and although she may have felt nervous, I think that she did a wonderful job! Dancers don’t often speak as part of their job, but she was heartfelt and genuine, and if I didn’t already love the company, I would after hearing from her. It might feel like dancers are this entire other group of people, as they are beautiful and in fantastic shape [and taller than tiny people like me…] but they are just like you and me, and love to hear from people who are interested in their art!
Local artist Faouzia performed six or seven songs in a solo set, and then performed later in the evening with her band. I had never heard of her before that evening, but she is a very talented and impressive artist- she’s the only person that I’ve heard cover an Adele song and truly nail it! Her set also felt very personal. There may have been a few hundred of us there but it still felt like a small and intimate performance. Two of the Aspirants performed a piece choreographed to one of Faouzia’s original songs, and it was the perfect melding of two local talents. Again, because there wasn’t any dancing last year, it really stood out to me as a great choice this year!
I was lucky enough to have two friends at the event. Vicki is my best friend and a fellow Alpha Gam, and we were super proud that we were able to make it to 1:00am!! We are both firm 10:30am bedtimers- look at us being all young and hip 🙂 I actually met my other friend Shannon through my summer ballet class at RWB, and it was great fun to have a friend to chat about RWB news with. I’m really not a party-er, but this event is the perfect way to get out and have fun without having to necessarily go to a loud bar. Winnipeg doesn’t have a ton of events that strike that balance, which is probably why this is my favourite event of the yera!
I was also able to chat with Beth, which was really the cherry on top of the perfect evening- there are not a ton of people out there who not only understand ballet but actually don’t mind discussing it, and I love being able to talk ballet with her! This is why I love the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as much as I do- I might just be a patron but it really makes you feel like you are a part of the Winnipeg ballet family. (Once again, I’m also just a ballet nerd, so getting a picture with my favourite dancer is pretty much the highlight of my year…)
I have to send out a huge thank you to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet event staff for putting on such an amazing event, to the dancers for being willing to chat and get to know all of us, and to my friends for also making it such a wonderful evening!
What is your ideal night out?