The Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) is performing at the Lyric Theatre in Assiniboine Park today with unique performances to highlight its 50th anniversary of Ballet in the Park.

This is the RWB's 83rd season and it is beginning with dance performances from the Company, the Professional Division of the RWB School and the Recreational Division of the school as well.

"2019 was our last performance at Ballet in the Park, so we are humbled to finally return and illuminate your world with the art of dance," says André lewis, the RWB's Artistic Director and CEO. "Year after year we witness the sea of support at the Lyric Theatre and are thrilled to give back a gift to the community. There is something for everyone at Ballet in the Park and it will be extra special as we celebrate the 50th anniversary."

The Company will perform Agnes de Mille's ballet Rodeo, a theatrical tale of love triangles and empowerment. The Professional Division of the RWB School will perform the classical Spanish-flavoured Paquita pa de Trois. The Recreational Division will perform Burgeon, which is choreographed by former Company artist Yosuke Mino for the Advanced Intensive Training Program Contemporary class and Sparkling Diamonds, choreographed by Nicole Kepp, the Recreational Division Principle for the Jazz Junior Dance Ensemble. 

"The first big difference is that you can get to way more people here and I always loved doing outside performances," says Jaime Vargas, Ballet Master for the Company. "For the dancers, it's a very different environment, so as a dancer I always loved seeing out of the open and seeing all the people coming in and out. It's a way more relaxed performance and from the audience's point of view, I also think that it's a great thing that you can be lying down on the grass with your kids, having a picnic while you were watching Ballet. So, it's a great way to engage with the community."

Crowd sitting on a green lawn

Vargas says that Ballet in the Park provides the public with an opportunity to see different styles of ballet. Such as classical styles that are seen in Swan Lake, Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty, but there is also a folk dance theme found in the performance Rodeo, along with contemporary jazz pieces.

"The school is doing a more classical and neoclassical style, and of the pieces is jazz. So, we have a little bit of everything from all the levels, the School, the Recreational Division, the Professional Division, and the Company. It's three different parts of our organization."

The showcase was originally supposed to be for three days, July 27-29, however, the show on Wednesday was cancelled due to the weather. 

"Honestly, it's so fun to get to do a ballet like this, especially in the park setting because the piece is about being outdoors on the ranch kind of thing and you really get that sort of feel when you're out on an outdoor stage and there are moments where I have to hide the sun from my eyes and look around and I'm actually going to be hiding the sun from my eyes because it's a beautiful day today," says Katie Bonnell, the second soloist who performed at yesterday's show.

"Ballet in the Park is one of my favourite shows to do for a couple of reasons, especially this year because we haven't been at the park since the summer of 2019. But what's special about these shows is we actually get to see our audience. In a theatre it's so dark, you basically just see the silhouettes of people, but here, even though it can be a little distracting, sometimes you get to see the young kids get up and dance with you and you get to see peoples reactions to what you're doing. It's a really unique opportunity, I think, for people to get to see what we do in a free setting. We know that dance is not always accessible to everybody, so I think this is a really great way to bring this art form to as many people as we possibly can, and then we hopefully inspire some people to buy tickets and see what other shows we have to offer in the rest of the season."

Before the show, the RWB offers pre-show activities for young children and hosts a Creative Movement class from 6:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. in the pre-show kids' area of Ballet in the Park each night.

There is also face painting, crafting, and pointe shoe decorating. There is also an ultimate prize of a five-pack RWB season subscription valued at $400, a winner is drawn each night, and guests can enter this contest at the Liquor Mart tent at Ballet in the Park. Food trucks are present for when the crowd gets hungry before, during or after the show.

Guests are to bring their lawn chairs, blankets, and their own snacks if they prefer.