A new ballet based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale will launch the Royal Winnipeg Ballet 74th season this October. At a Tuesday morning press conference held at the RWB’s Graham Avenue headquarters artistic director André Lewis announced the world premiere of New York choreographer Lila York’s adaptation of Atwood’s Governor General’s Award-winner about a dismal future America where women are reproductive slaves.
"I think it is a powerful story that lends itself to being portrayed through ballet," says Lewis, in his 18th season at the helm of the RWB. "What I want to do is push the envelope. I don’t want them to do a classical ballet again. I want them to do something of today but that respects that we are a ballet company."
The esteemed 73-year-old Atwood was not at the gathering of about 50 people in the RWB’s Founders Studio but she spoke from Toronto via a Skype hookup with Lewis, who asked her questions about her reaction to her sixth novel now being turned in a ballet after it was the basis of a 1990 film, starring Natasha Richardson and Robert Duvall, as well as a Poul Ruders opera that debuted at the Danish Royal Opera in 2000.
"I’m really excited because I’m just trying to imagine it," she said from Toronto. "I’ve yet to visualize it."
The rest of the RWB season is highlighted by Rudi Van Dantzig’s Romeo + Juliet, being revived next February for the first time since 2009 and the annual holiday treat Nutcracker in December. Peter Quanz’s Q Dance troupe will perform in November at the Gas Station Theatre before Montreal’s Les Grands Ballets Canadiens comes to town in March to stage Rodin/Claudel, with choreography also by Quanz.
The 2013-14 schedule wraps with a mixed program involving James Kudelka’s classic The Four Seasons, William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude — a scene of which was performed live at the 45-minute event — and Défilé by Jorden Morris.
RWB ends its current season with Moulin Rouge – The Ballet May 1-5.