Curtain call for the RWB comeback

Dancers are ready to ‘reignite the stage’

Yue Shi, a principal dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, is excited to return to the stage in Seventh Symphony.

Supplied photo

A year after the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) last set foot on the Centennial Concert Hall stage, dancers will return to the mainstage for the 2021-22 season.

In an effort to invite audiences to enjoy in-person entertainment and celebrate the return of traditional performances, the RWB has decided to name the incoming season Reignite the Stage.

“Expect much excitement from artists who will be performing on stage. The dancers were dancing during the COVID period, but they were being filmed and weren’t performing in front of a live audience, and dancers feed off of the audience,” Tara Birtwhistle, the RWB’s associate artistic director, says.

The first set of performances, entitled Perpetual Motion, will happen from Oct. 14 to 17, showcasing Toer van Schayk’s choreography-led Seventh Symphony and Agnes de Milles’ Rodeo.

“These are two beloved RWB ballets. Seventh Symphony is a beautiful piece. It is about coming out of something together, and that will really reignite the stage, because it is pure dance, and the whole company will be on stage at once,” Birtwhistle says.

“The second piece is Rodeo, which really speaks to the good, old-fashioned fun. It hearkens back to old Broadway and old films. It is just a wholesome story that will provide comfort.”

The excitement for the long-awaited return to the Centennial Concert Hall has left principal dancers Chenxin Liu and Yue Shi with high spirits. During the lockdowns, they were unable to dance with most of their classmates, having been separated into cohorts. Now that they are preparing for the live shows, the dancers have gone back to in-person classes with the rest of their ensemble.

Liu explained how the current environment at the RWB looks in comparison to the lockdown period.

“Right now, we are doing in-person classes but with a mask. In the past two weeks, we started taking classes with everyone, but last season, we were divided into three cohorts. There were about eight dancers per cohort,” Liu says.

When asked about what it was like to practice together with his peers for the upcoming performances, Shi says “It feels so good, actually, to bring everybody into the same studio, because we can challenge each other, and it’s just really fun.”

Three other ballet performances will take place during the rest of the season. The annual tradition of presenting The Nutcracker from Dec. 18 to 28 is already confirmed for the end of this year. From Feb. 23 to 27, audiences will have the chance to see the RWB heading back to the stage with The Sleeping Beauty. Lastly, Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story will finalize the Reignite the Stage season in a ballet-meets-Broadway version of the beloved fairytale.

Despite having so many performances scheduled soon, Shi and Liu have an idea of which ones they are most excited to dance.

“I am really looking forward to Seventh Symphony. It is a really challenging ballet, and I have never done this before, so I think it is a great chance to do it right now,” Shi says.

“I am looking forward to performing Seventh Symphony and Rodeo, because we have rehearsed for (them) so many times and didn’t have the chance to perform. I am also really excited for Cinderella. I love the music in this ballet,” Liu says.

The tickets for Perpetual Motion are already available for purchase through the Centennial Concert Hall website. For more information, visit

Published in Volume 76, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 16, 2021)

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