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Dance & diplomacy

RWB celebrates 70th anniversary with a return to Israel, 35 years after the company's first visit

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5The evening began with In Tandem, a piece built by choreographer Peter Quanz on the RWB dancers, originally commissioned for the Guggenheim's Works in Progress series in 2009, then followed with principal dancer Tara Birtwhistle and her husband, soloist Dmitri Dovgoselets, performing a dynamic rendition of Shawn Hounsell's pas de deux Led, and finally the company's critically acclaimed and popular Carmina Burana, choreographed by Maurice Wainrot to the well-known score by Carl Orff.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2010 (4488 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

5The evening began with In Tandem, a piece built by choreographer Peter Quanz on the RWB dancers, originally commissioned for the Guggenheim’s Works in Progress series in 2009, then followed with principal dancer Tara Birtwhistle and her husband, soloist Dmitri Dovgoselets, performing a dynamic rendition of Shawn Hounsell’s pas de deux Led, and finally the company’s critically acclaimed and popular Carmina Burana, choreographed by Maurice Wainrot to the well-known score by Carl Orff.

“At the intermission people came up to me and were saying, ‘Extraordinary. Amazing,'” artistic director André Lewis said the morning after the performance. “I knew we had a wonderful show, but it was very heart-warming.”

This from a crowd for whom the term “tough audience” might have been coined. Tel Avivians are sophisticated dance watchers, with annually jammed performance calenders and a long history of groundbreaking dance in their city — albeit more modern then classical.

BRUCE MONK The Royal Winnipeg Ballet performed Carmina Burana to a nearly full house on Thursday in Tel Aviv,

Although the RWB’s Carmina is a critically appreciated piece, the choice to include it on the program was also a safe one. The work of Wainrot, an Argentine born to Jewish parents who narrowly escaped the Holocaust in their native Poland, has long resonated with Israelis.

“The Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents dance enthusiasts with a rare treat — a work by Maurice Wainrot,” was the headline of an article in the Jerusalem Post.

Though the RWB has traditionally been a touring company, it has been short on road trips of late. The Israel trip is the troupe’s first foreign tour in seven years. (It’s their first visit to Israel in 35 years; in 1975, they were the first Canadian ballet company to visit the country.) They endeavoured to make this trip a splash.

The opening-night audience of 1,300 included many prominent figures from the Israeli, Manitoba and Canadian political spheres such as Canadian Ambassador to Israel Paul Hunt, Tel Aviv’s Mayor Ron Huldai, the Consul General Amir Gissin and a contingent of Manitoba ministers, led by Premier Greg Selinger, who are in Israel to sign partnership agreements as well as to help promote the RWB’s 70th anniversary tour.

Members of a Jewish Federation of Winnipeg mission to Israel, concurrent with the RWB’s tour, were also in attendance at the opening night performance.

The dancers — who arrived in Israel on Sunday and finish the last of three performances in Tel Aviv tonight, before two in Jerusalem and two in Haifa — have also been performing diplomatic duties that go beyond their standard cultural diplomacy.

On Sunday, the company attended the dedication ceremony of the new Playground for Peace in the ancient port city Jaffa, today a mixed Arab and Jewish Tel Aviv neighbourhood, with Premier Selinger, Christine Melnick, Manitoba’s minister of water stewardship, and other Manitoba dignitaries. The company later taught a dance class to a group of children at a local community centre.

Judy Slivinski, the RWB’s senior director of marketing and development, said of their sod-turning-like activities: “The fact that our tour is concurrent with the Jewish Federation’s mission and the premier’s visit has intensified the usual community outreach activities the RWB likes to participate in during a tour. Our endeavours are usually more artistic, more ballet oriented, such as master classes. This time our endeavours have been more social.”

Seemingly feeding off the caffeine-drip, Manhattan-like buzz of Tel Aviv, the dancers managed, between rehearsals, performances and public duties, to get in some sightseeing and even some partying.

Principal dancer Jaime Vargas hoisted fellow principal Vanessa Lawson above some of the ancient Roman ruins of Caesarea. The company toured Tel Aviv, and took in a four-hour walking tour of Jerusalem. One of the first things they saw coming into the ancient city was a new modern bridge by Calatrava, which some of the dancers said reminded them of the Provencher bridge in Winnipeg.

On Monday they attended, along with Federation mission members, a party at the home of Winnipeg-born entrepreneur Avie Arenson. “There were so many former Winnipeggers there, all telling their stories of living in the south end or north end,” said Lewis.

After the opening performance, about 250 people attended a VIP reception in the foyer of the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, a space designed by well known Israeli/English designer Ron Arad.

The party was hosted by the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Manitoba government and corporate sponsor Pavilion Investment House. Among the attendees were Ambassador Hunt; Mayor Huldai; Premier Selinger; Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines Dave Chomiak; and Leader of the Opposition Hugh McFayden. Mel Lazereck, president of JNF Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta (recently named special representative for Manitoba to Israel for economic and community relations); Marty Weinberg, president and CEO of Pavilion Investment House; Erin Battat, Canadian president of the Tel Aviv Foundation; Moe Levy, executive director of the Asper Foundation; and Avie and Sarah Arenson also attended.

Up early the next day after a long night, Lewis laughed and said, “We’ve even had time to dip our toes in the Mediterranean.”

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