Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Following The Hobbit

Books are a gateway to a world of magic for RWB choreographer

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For as long as I can remember reading, libraries and bookstores have been the most magical and comforting places for me.

When I am in need of inspiration or research, there is always a book waiting for me. When I want to escape to another world or another life, there is always a story waiting on the shelf. You don't need to make an appointment or reservation; whether you have a few moments or a few hours, a book is always there for you. You don't need a device (other than your eyes and imagination) or cables or Wi-Fi -- all you need is a comfy chair when available, and light (which when I was a boy was most often the tent constructed with my blankets and a flashlight).

When I left home at 12 for my first summer school with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, I distinctly remember two things: The first was finding the University of Manitoba campus bookstore. Arriving from Banff into the "big city," I thought that bookstore was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. The second event was finding J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit. That book got me through my first summer away from home, missing family and friends and beginning a new adventure. In many ways, that story would mirror the journey of my career, which began in Taché Hall and took me to theatres and stages across the world. Decades later, when I lived in Boston, my childhood memory at the University of Manitoba sparked again and I jumped on the train to Harvard and fell in love with that campus bookstore (and of course the monumental Boston Public Library!)

When I begin to work on a new production, I always make sure to gather books on the story or subject matter, the music and composers. I have started a collection of books on lighting, costumes and set design that come in so very handy when explaining new ideas and looks with my design team.

When I go to work in a new city, I always make time to search out the obscure or tiny bookstores that may hold undiscovered treasures. My suitcase and carry-on always contain a book or two, and often the only things I declare coming home are the new books I have found.

My favourite Winnipeg bookstore is the Chapters at St. Vital Centre. It's close to my home, so in the summer I can bike or walk there to find my next read. More often than not, I will stop at St. Vital Park on the way home to sit by the river and start the book. Sometimes I know exactly what I'm looking for, and other times I can just peruse and explore for hours.

I have had some of the most amazing conversations with friends and also complete strangers in the Starbucks in Chapters, which truly encapsulates our Friendly Manitoba attitude. The staff is always wonderful and full of suggestions. Trust me -- every time I have taken one, it has never been a letdown.

Choreographer Jorden Morris is well-known for the creation of RWB blockbuster ballets Moulin Rouge -- the Ballet, and Peter Pan. His new signature work, Défilé, which celebrates the connectivity of the RWB Company and the RWB School, premières next week from May 7-11 at the Centennial Concert Hall as RWB closes the season with Mixed Programme, featuring three ballets in one evening from the world's leading contemporary ballet choreographers.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2014 A1

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