Sacha Skirzyk at RWB rehearsal studio (Darcy DeFries)
Every summer since the 1970's, dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet perform on the outdoor stage at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg. Ballet in the Park has become another one of those Winnipeg traditions, and this summer is no different.
Locals and tourists claim their spot on the grass in front of the Lyric Theatre at Assinibione Park in the early evening. The sky is blue, the atmosphere is casual and the show on stage is reliably professional.
SCENE caught up with ten year old Winnipeg dancer Sacha Skirzyk. He is dancing at Ballet in the Park for the first time.
What made you want to take up dance?
I don't really remember...my mom put us in a 'Mom and Me' class when I was three. My sister was taking ballet and so I wanted to go too. I started getting really serious when I was 8 because I was in The Nutcracker and really liked it. That same year I was in the RWB's 70th Gala performance, and I've done the Manitoba Dance Festival 2 years in a row.
How did you come to be performing at "Ballet in the Park"?
Well, my group that did the Manitoba Dance Fest together won a gold and the RWB school asked us to do Ballet in the Park.
Can you describe the dance you will be performing in?
"Sailors' Dance" - It's a Ukranian character dance and we are sailors. The Music is by Pavlo Virsky, choreographed for us by Kristina Washchyshyn who teaches at RWB and a Ukranian dance school.
Here is a Youtube video showing the inspiration for "Sailors' Dance" at Ballet in the Park:
How is performing at the Lyric Theatre at Assiniboine Park different from performing at the Concert Hall? The Lyric Theatre stage is smaller, and there are less 'entrance wings' than at the Concert Hall. For dressing rooms, the sailor boys change outside beside the stage in a tent. There is no orchestra pit, so we dance to recorded music that is played on big speakers attached to the front of the stage. At the dress rehearsal, our music cut out 24 counts before we were done our dance....we had to keep going like nothing was wrong and finish, but it was weird! Usually when we dance, we can't see the audience because of bright stage lights. Because Ballet in the Park is outside, we can see everyone....Our teachers told us to look way into the distance with our head tilted up so we don't make eye contact with anyone. And it works!
Most kids are on summer holidays - when did you start working on this performance and what went into preparing for it?
We had 8 one hour classes at the RWB in July to get ready. We worked with Kristina (the original choreographer) and also with Johanne Gingras, who teaches at the RWB professional school. There used to be 15 of us but only 10 of the original boys said yes and we added one other boy.....so some of us had to learn new choreography. I had to learn 64 new steps for these performances. We all had to get used to the new spacing and order because of the missing boys.
What does it feel like when you dance?
When I dance I can't really describe it but it makes me happy! It calms my mind because my muscles just know what to do. I have to remember alot of stuff like: suck in my stomach, puff out my rib cage, think about my biceps, relax my shoulders, stretch my arms, legs and toes. Oh yeah and smile.......to make it look like its easy!! I love to hear the audience clapping everytime I finish a dance.
How far would you like to go with your dancing?
I would like to go far enough to possibly be in the professional division, maybe be in a company some day or even dance at the RWB!!