Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

These are RWB's stories and they're sticking to 'em

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Fairy-tale princesses, magical kingdoms and love duets will shimmer on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet stage in 2012-13 as the company presents an entire season of full-length story ballets, it was announced Tuesday.

The Canadian premiere of Twyla Tharp's The Princess and the Goblin will open the season from Oct. 17-21, followed by the return of Nutcracker Dec. 20-30, The Sleeping Beauty March 6-10, 2013 and Moulin Rouge --The Ballet May 1-5, 2013.

There wasn't much surprise in the unveiling, since the Tharp ballet has long been scheduled and the other three productions are remounts. (A fresh version of the iconic Sleeping Beauty publicity image in which Evelyn Hart slept, surrounded by roses, has been created with ballerina Vanessa Lawson now slumbering.)

Rather than including one mixed-repertoire program of shorter works as it usually does, RWB management decided to tie its 73rd season together under a "fairy-tale fantasy" theme, artistic director André Lewis said.

Executive director Jeff Herd acknowledged that programming only story ballets helps mitigate financial risk for the company, because they are easier to sell than mixed programs. Behind the scenes next season, he said, the company will be developing new works, including one based on an undisclosed novel.

Looking ahead, Herd said, RWB is making plans to diversify its offerings, probably starting in 2014-15 or 2015-16. It may start using venues other than the Centennial Concert Hall and will likely create different series to give dance fans "more option and access."

The season could evolve into "a classical series, a family friendly series and a modern series," he said.

Next season, the troupe will tour a mixed-repertoire program, including its new Leonard Cohen ballet The Doorway, to Atlantic Canada. It will also continue touring Moulin Rouge in the United States, where the love story set in the famous can-can cabaret has been a consistent box-office hit.

"It's been one of our most successful ballets," Herd said. "The American presenters just seem to love it.... They want us back."

Moulin Rouge has been seen by nearly 100,000 people in about 30 North American cities since making its debut in Winnipeg in 2009. When it is remounted for the first time in Winnipeg next May, choreographer Jorden Morris may rework it slightly, Lewis said.

At Tuesday's news conference, company dancers and students strutted down a fashion runway, modelling fanciful costumes and headdresses designed by RWB's Anne Armit for The Princess and the Goblin.

The fantasy ballet, co-commissioned by RWB and Atlanta Ballet from legendary New York choreographer Twyla Tharp, had its world premiere by the Georgia company about two months ago. The music is by Franz Schubert.

In Winnipeg, it will include 12 child dancers -- five boys and seven girls -- with four roles to be cast from the elite professional division of the RWB School, and eight from the recreational division, Lewis said.

Adapted from a tale by 19th-century Scottish fantasy writer George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin centres on young Princess Irene (played by an adult dancer), who goes on a brave quest to a goblin kingdom to rescue a town's kidnapped children.

Tharp, who is 70 years old, will arrive in Winnipeg in early September to work with RWB and is expected to stay right through the October run, Lewis said. She is famous for continuing to revise her creations even after they have opened.

Season tickets for the 2012-13 season are on sale at 956-2792. Single tickets go on sale in September.

alison.mayes@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2012 C3

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