When Catherine Wreford found out that she had brain cancer in June 2013, with doctors predicting she had only two to six years left to live, there was one thing she knew she wanted to do: dance.
She had grown up training in the recreational division at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, then went on to perform on Broadway and in musical theater productions around the country. She eventually left the stage to find more stable work, running a mortgage company and later getting a nursing degree because, she says, "I knew that I could do that for a long time."
But a diagnosis of anaplastic astrocytoma meant she didn't have a long time left.
Compagnie Hervé KOUBI will perform Barbarian Nights at Fall for Dance. Photo by Pierangela Flisi, Courtesy New York City Center
As the fall performance season kicks into high gear, we've been cramming as much excellent dance on our calendars as possible. But if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the options, we've got you covered: From rare U.S. appearances by one of our 2018 "25 to Watch" to an autumn mainstay for New Yorkers, Romeo and Juliet to The Handmaid's Tale, here's what caught our eye.
More than 60 dancers are suing Bruce Monk and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet over explicit photos that were taken of them as students. Photo by Matej/Stock Snap.
More than 60 former students from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet have joined a class-action lawsuit against the company and its former teacher and photographer Bruce Monk. Those involved are seeking $75 million in damages, for inappropriate photos that were taken of them as students by Monk. The lawsuit was reported by MacLean's, a Canadian news outlet.
"Off Kilter" has real dancers playing dancers. Still courtesy CBC Arts.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
Royal Winnipeg Ballet premieres a ballet about Canada’s segregated history.
Choreographer Mark Godden leads rehearsal at RWB. Photo Courtesy RWB.
A company that usually sticks to crowd-pleasing story ballets, Royal Winnipeg Ballet will open its 75th-anniversary season with a work centered on a controversial topic. Going Home Star—Truth and Reconciliation, choreographed by former RWB dancer Mark Godden, is inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, established in response to a federal policy that forced indigenous children to leave their families for Indian Residential Schools. The goal of these boarding programs, which were government funded from the 1880s to the mid-1990s, was to assimilate indigenous children into white culture, and students were cruelly punished if they did not conform. “It’s a Canadian story,” says Godden, who read survivor testimonials to prepare for the ballet, which premieres October 1–5 at Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg. “I think it’s important to get people talking about the injustices that humans have done to one another.”
The work’s purpose, says Godden, is to apologize for Canada’s history of human rights abuse and to honor indigenous heritage. The full-length story ballet will include performances by Steve Wood and the Northern Cree Singers and Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, plus a libretto by writer Joseph Boyden. “I think Canadians need to understand,” says Boyden, “that for almost 100 years, our First Nations Peoples were not allowed to practice their own dance, speak their own language or participate in their own religions.”
Godden is proud that RWB, and Canadians in general, are willing to look back into the country’s unpleasant past—even if it is, ironically, through the lens of an art form with European roots. “You can’t make change if you can’t see the error of your ways. These stories are so deep and personal. I was completely swallowed up by them.”