I was originally surprised to see that the RWB’s Season of Storytelling would be concluding with Carmina Burana and Serenade in a mixed repertoire show, as they are both somewhat story-less. However, it is the perfect way to close the season entirely focused on the company itself and what our dancers can do! This three piece production is widely varied in both choreography and music, but the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is the heart running through it, and undoubtedly shows why we should be proud to call them our own. The athleticism, intelligence, power, and grace that is shown throughout is amazing to see in person, and Carmina Burana with Serenade is not a show to miss!
This mixed rep of Carmina Burana, Serenade, and For Bye and About is a wonderful end to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s 78th season- it showcases the technical and emotional range of the company, brings back an older favourite as well as introducing a new and personal piece, and allows us to see the talent and range of the entire company.
One of my favourite parts of attending an RWB performance is the pre-show chat- they will have current and former dancers and artistic staff give a short informal talk to give a sneak peak into what they do and what we can expect in the show. This pre-show chat was particularly amazing, as we were joined by the choreographer of Carmina Burana himself, Mauricio Wainrot. He has choreographed countless ballets, including three in the RWB repertoire (Carmina Burana, Messiah, and Carmen). I love the way he described being a choreographer, “a choreographer is a writer; instead of writing on paper, we write on stage”. He also explained that he loves to work with singers and choirs in his pieces, as it is a total performance from every aspect- after seeing Carmina Burana in person, having the symphony and choirs supporting the company, it really is awe-inspiring! Also, he said that he would love to choreograph for [Principal Dancer] Sofia Lee, so I am hopeful that we will see more of Mauricio’s works on the company in the future!
For Bye and About
I was incredibly excited and intrigued to see For Bye and About after attending a cocktail event with the choreographer with Philippe Larouche, as the former apprentice and Corps member choreographed this for the company, by the company, and about the company! Set to the 3rd and 4th movements of Beethoven’s 4th Symphony, it is a short (only 18 minute) piece featuring the male dancers of the company showcasing the past, present, and future of the company.
For Bye and About is quietly exhausting, in the most impressive ways- to continually turn, jump, and lift with impeccable control for 18 minutes straight is no mean feat. Typically a male dancer will lift a female dancer, so it is quite a different sight to see male dancers lifting each other! (If you were ever wondering about the strength and stamina of ballet dancers, watch For Bye and About!) Because it is a smaller piece of only six dancers, each dancer was featured and given the opportunity to showcase his own strength. I loved Philippe’s unique interpretation of the company, and appreciated his blending of classical and contemporary technique to represent where the company has gone and where it will go.
Serenade, the second piece in the show, was choreographed by George Balanchine, often referred to as the father of American ballet. He choreography is know for it’s striking and abstract lines, deep pliés, and an almost athletic movement throughout. Although I am a huge fan of the classical ballets, I haven’t actually seen any Balanchine pieces in person, so I have been waiting since it was revealed last March to see Serenade! There is rather a lack of story in Serenade, allowing you to focus entirely on the dancing itself rather than trying to follow something. It also features my one of my favourite composers, Peter Tchaikovsky- Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48 is the perfect accompaniment to this choreography, and the utterly gorgeous Romantic tutus! (Most people love the classical, platter tutu, but I think that the Romantic tutu allows for beautiful lines from head to toe.)
Serenade did not disappoint in any way, from start to finish- from the moment the curtain rises to when it falls, it is a ballet of continual movement, quiet emotion, and striking lines. What makes pieces like Serenade so special is that they present an almost pure and direct but complicated picture of ballet that we don’t see elsewhere. It is a stunning image to see the stage filled with dancers in romantic tutus and immediately move into a classical position, and that feeling of awe continues throughout. Katie Bonnell shone in particular for me- her strong but delicate technique shows a quality of movement that remind the audience of the art behind the athletics of ballet, which was made more impressive in that this is purely driven by emotion rather than story. Serenade is also a wonderful opportunity to see Balanchine’s technique and choreography as he intended, sweeping lines, long arabesques, and graceful arms. It also paired very well with For Bye and About, with the former piece being entirely male and the latter almost entirely female- a strong juxtaposition to Carmina Burana!
Carmina Burana, choreographed by Mauricio Wainrot, was originally performed by the company in 2002 and is set to one of the most well-known operas of the twentieth century. For a bit of background, the music of Carmina Burana was written by Carl Orff and was based on a collection of anonymous poems written in the 11th to 13th centuries in a German monastery. It is thought that they were written by younger clergymen, and satirise much of the aspects of life that they couldn’t enjoy! (For people who aren’t nerdy medieval historians such as myself, monks in monasteries would have led a somewhat sedate lifestyle, but not necessarily the strict and narrow, hour by hour day that we tend to imagine.) I was lucky enough to see the open rehearsal directed by Mauricio himself, and he described the four act ballet as the wheel of fortune, continuously changing and moving through life! For anyone who is interested, you can find the original and translated lyrics here.
(Sidenote: If you are a Winnipegger, I would wholeheartedly recommend subscribing to season tickets at the RWB. In addition to 3-5 productions for a fantastic price, you also receive invitations to events like open rehearsals, which really enhance your experience of a piece.)
I was blown away by Carmina Burana; I typically gravitate towards story ballets, but the sheer intensity, technical difficultly, and the overwhelming talent of the company and choreographer entirely won me over. Mauricio’s passion for ballet as an art is clear in his choreography; he challenges the dancers while inviting them emotionally invest in it. It is lovely mix of classical technique with natural movement that truly allows the audience to get lost in the movement while still feeling entirely rooted in each movement. My favourite movement is Primo Vera (Spring)- there is lightness and joy while still highlighting the sheer control and power of both the female and male dancers in the company. Alanna McAdie is particularly wonderful to watch, there is a delicate strength in her dancing and her genuine emotion was apparent throughout, and Sofia Lee gives a commanding performance that highlights her strength and focus in her art!
Tickets are still available, and there are showings on Thursday, May 3 (7:30pm), Friday, May 4 (7:30pm), Saturday, May 5 (7:30pm), and Sunday, May 6 (2:00pm)- if you are interested, visit here for more information! There are also pre-show chats with dancers and artistic staff, backstage tours, and meet and greet with dancers, so this is the perfect time to get to know our dancers and what really goes on during a show. This is an exciting and memorable production, and there is something for everyone- from the newest ballet-goer to the most experienced balletomane. We won’t see the company dancers until the end of July for Ballet in the Park, so I would certainly see them finish up their season! Annnnd finally, if you haven’t seen what is coming up for the 2018/19 season, I will leave this here…
If you could ask a ballet dancer one question, what would it be?