You may not have considered going to the ballet before, but if you’re going to give it a chance, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) is making it worth your time with its On the Edge Tour.
Running from March 16 to 25, the RWB will be visiting nine communities across Manitoba to perform On the Edge.
Sharing dance workshops — which invite the audience to participate — will be offered as part of the performance.
The shows themselves will include a classical performance — a condensed comedic arrangement from Don Quixote — and contemporary performances by choreographers Gabriela Rehak, Philippe Larouche and Indigenous choreographers Jera Wolfe and Cameron Fraser-Monroe.
Growing up in Vernon, B.C., Fraser-Monroe has been a dancer his entire life.
“At the age of three I actually started with Ukrainian dance,” Fraser-Monroe said.
“From there I just built out into Indigenous hoop dance, Indigenous grass dance. I did all the musical theatre stuff as a kid. And at the same time I was, of course, playing sports — all of the sports. Then at the age of 15 I auditioned for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet which brought me to Winnipeg.”
Fraser-Monroe recalled the journey to becoming a member of the RWB as a challenging but rewarding process.
“You have to audition in your hometown,” he said. “They tour all over Canada, even internationally, and then you’re invited to stay for the month of July in the school. You get to live away from home and see if you can adapt to the ballet because they take students as young as 11. And then if you’re accepted you come for the regular year which starts in [the] fall with the rest of [the] school [year].”
Though Fraser-Monroe came to Winnipeg for one summer as part of the RWB audition process, he decided not to stay for the full year.
“Then I came back again, and I felt so far behind from that year that I didn’t do with the ballet,” he said. “So, for me that felt like a very, very difficult time in my life — feeling like everyone around me was better than me, everyone around me deserved to be here more than myself. But ultimately, what I got out of that was it pushed me to get better.”
Now 21, Fraser-Monroe is choreographing a piece for the On the Edge Tour called “Pine Needle in The River,” based on the Indigenous story “Why The Raven’s Feathers are Black.”
“I want to show other young Indigenous people and other people of colour that you don’t need to be a ballet dancer, you can just be what you want,” Fraser-Monroe said.
“You can find space for yourself, no matter how European or how closed off it seems, you can achieve that in your own way.”
As for continuing the touring tradition that made the RWB what it is today, Fraser-Monroe takes pride in continuing the legacy of the dance troupe.
“That’s how the Royal Winnipeg Ballet made its name was as a touring company,” he said. “They could pop up in towns and present themselves for one night and then move on to the next city.
“So, being part of that history — or, in a way, repeating that history — means a lot to me because I look up to the dancers that did that and kind of paved the way for me to be where I am now and doing what I’m doing.”
For more information and tickets to the On the Edge Tour, go to rwb.org.