RWB's Chenxin Liu and Liam Caines in rehearsal. Vince Pahkala, Courtesy RWB.

Reflecting the Community: The Royal Winnipeg Ballet Turns 75

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2014 issue of Pointe.

In October, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet kicks off its 75th-anniversary season with a thought-provoking world premiere. Going Home Star: A Story of Truth and Reconciliation is inspired by The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, an organization that examines the cultural trauma of the nation's Indian Residential Schools—a compulsory education program that targeted and isolated indigenous children so that they might better assimilate into nonnative culture.

RWB's artistic director André Lewis approached former resident choreographer Mark Godden about making the new ballet. Godden immediately built a diverse team of artistic collaborators, tapping indigenous author Joseph Boyden to write an original story and members of the Northern Cree Singers to perform alongside the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The ballet follows a young woman named Annie grappling with her identity and the history of injustice experienced by Canada's aboriginal people. "I needed support from Winnipeg's indigenous population to go forward with the project," says Lewis. "We need to represent who we are in Manitoba."

Though the ballet veers from the rest of RWB's anniversary season (a mostly classical lineup that includes Swan Lake and Cinderella), Lewis is optimistic that ballet-goers will be receptive. "The purpose of the company is not to make social change. It's to enrich the human experience through outstanding dance," he says. "But anything worth doing will have confrontational aspects."

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