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Parting is sweet sorrow for ballerinas

Dancers leaving RWB after half a lifetime with the company

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Two long-serving dancers are taking their final bows with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in the season-closing Pure Ballet performances Wednesday through Sunday. Here's a farewell look at Emily Grizzell and Carrie Broda:

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At the end of Peter Pan, Wendy Darling grows up, becomes a mother, and never again flies to Neverland.

The RWB's original Wendy, Emily Grizzell, has matured and become a mother, too. Now she's closing a life chapter after 15 seasons with the company.

The petite brunette soloist, 34, will dance a farewell duet called rivalry/revelry with her Peter Pan, Yosuke Mino, in the Pure Ballet performances.

Mino, an emerging choreographer who has been Grizzell's favourite onstage partner, created the duet to honour her retirement.

It's a fiercely strenuous four minutes -- a "crazy sprint," Grizzell says -- in a very contemporary style. That reflects where her heart is taking her. Her enthusiasm for the classics has waned, she says, while she has enjoyed dancing boundary-crossing works such as In the Upper Room.

The performer with the girl-next-door quality wants to try freelancing as a more contemporary dancer. Her first such gig will be as a member of Peter Quanz's Q Dance troupe, which has Winnipeg performances June 8-10.

"I don't really feel like a classical ballerina anymore. I don't want to put a tutu on and hop around on my toes," says the native of Spokane, Wash., who moved here to join the RWB School at age 16.

"All the roles I really loved were the human beings. I never felt like a sylph or a princess."

Though she did perform many princess roles, such as the lead in The Sleeping Beauty, she's self-deprecating about her appearance in a tutu and tiara. "I look like when people dress up their pets," she says.

Besides Wendy, the "real person" roles she treasured include the Cowgirl in Rodeo, Nancy in A Cinderella Story, Clara in Nutcracker and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.

Grizzell, who is married to fellow dancer Amar Dhaliwal and lives in Wolseley, gave birth to a daughter, Lucie, two-and-a-half years ago. It was tougher than she expected, she says, to get her dancing body back.

In the Pure Ballet program, she's dancing Carmina Burana and Luminous, as well as her swan-song duet. The other day, while rehearsing part of Luminous that's like teetering on a cliff over churning water, it hit her that she's making a leap by leaving the RWB family where she has spent more than half her life.

"You have to jump really far (to clear the rocks and hit open water)," she says. "It's exciting, and kind of scary."

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The sultry Arabian duet in Nutcracker may never be the same without Carrie Broda, the beautiful blond dancer who made the slinky harem girl a signature role.

Broda, 36, is hanging up her pointe shoes after 14 seasons with RWB. The second soloist loved to perform the Arabian role, she says, partly because it seemed to snake-charm the crowd into silence.

"I think the music hypnotizes the audience," says the tall, long-limbed St. Vital resident.

Broda was born in Melville, Sask., and grew up in Regina. She started ballet late for a girl, at age 12, and also came late to a professional training program, entering the RWB School at age 18. Though she was warned at one point she might never make it as a professional, she persevered and beat the odds.

She recovered from knee surgery in 2009 that kept her offstage for nearly a year, but says other injuries are starting to affect her. "It's just time," she says about bowing out.

Recalling the ballets that have meant the most to her, such as the Bach-scored Concerto Barocco, Broda says that for her, dance artistry is "all about the music."

A deeply moving piece, the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler's 5th Symphony, will accompany the 10-minute farewell pas de deux that Broda will dance in the Pure Ballet program with bald, muscular Alexander Gamayunov, her husband since 2007.

"The music is just so emotional and romantic," she says. "The first time we heard it, we both cried. There are a lot of moments (in the choreography by Oscar Araiz) of looking at each other. It's so special to be able to share it with him. He's one of my inspirations in dance."

About 15 family members are coming from Saskatchewan to see Broda dance for the last time. Next season, Gamayunov, 37, will keep performing while Broda plans to become a massage therapist and/or personal trainer.

When Gamayunov first arrived at RWB from Ukraine in 2001, Broda recalls, he didn't know any English. He worked extremely hard at it and she would sometimes help him practise. He fell for her, but she resisted him at first.

"I had this thing that I didn't want to date a ballet dancer," she says. "I kept pushing him away. But finally, I caved."

Dance Preview

Pure Ballet

Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Centennial Concert Hall

May 9-12 at 7:30 p.m.; May 13 at 2 p.m.

Tickets $33 to $97.50 at Ticketmaster or 956-2792

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 8, 2012 C3

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