Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

RWB promotes Svengali star to first soloist

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IN an unusual mid-season move, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has promoted Harrison James, the star of Svengali, to the rank of first soloist.

Artistic director André Lewis announced at Sunday's final Winnipeg performance of Svengali that James, who is only 20 years old, was getting a boost from second soloist to first, which is the rank just below principal. Promotions usually happen between seasons.

"Harrison has already moved up to perform as a lead," Lewis said in a news release. "With his latest role, he has achieved a level of excellence that warrants a promotion now."

The handsome James, who is from New Zealand, joined the company last year and has obvious potential as a star. He didn't expect the promotion. "It was a huge shock, but a nice one," he said.

Svengali choreographer Mark Godden, who chose James for the title role, had high praise for the up-and-comer.

"Harrison is incredibly musical and talented in a really intelligent way," Godden said. "If I ask him to do something, he is loaded with confidence and he just grabs the idea ... and gets it right away.

"His classical technique is excellent, but he also has a fluidity and groundedness to his modern technique."

James will take on more lead roles this season, Lewis said.

Last season, when dazzling 21-year-old Maureya Lebowitz defected from RWB to a larger British company, there was some speculation that Lewis should have promoted her to principal to recognize her exceptional talent.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 27, 2011 D2

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