For me, for my dancers, it's important to be exposed to all kinds of voices and clearly Twyla has a unique vocabulary that she is so comfortable in presenting."
—André Lewis, artistic director
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has welcomed dance legend and choreographer Twyla Tharp to the city. The company is in rehearsal for its first production of the season, Tharp's new work called The Princess & The Goblin.
"It's a great significance to have Tharp here . . . for our dancers to be exposed to the work of someone of that stature -- but not only having something just re-set for them but created for them and working with the quality that she brings, said artistic director André Lewis.
"For me, for my dancers, it's important to be exposed to all kinds of voices and clearly Twyla has a unique vocabulary that she is so comfortable in presenting."
The diminutive choreographer is known to be quite a formidable figure.
"She's very demanding, very precise," Lewis said. "She knows how to get something out of the people. Of course you worry that sometimes she will be angry or impatient. But the working relationship has been very, very positive."
"Excitement does not exist," Tharp insists. She and the company remain firmly focused on the tasks at hand -- intense rehearsals, wardrobe, lighting, orchestra, cuing and spacing.
"We have no expectations. We expect to find out from the audience. That's why we need all of you there on opening night," she says.
Tharp's ballet is based on a book by the 19th-century Victorian writer, George MacDonald. She says he had a huge impact on later fiction, particularly on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien and their fantasy and virtual worlds.
"He kind of invented science fiction," she said.
Tharp was attracted to this story about a town's children who are kidnapped and taken to the underworld by The Goblin. The heroine, Princess Irene, tries to rescue them.
MacDonald wrote the book for his daughters and he wanted to give the girls a positive image with Princess Irene. Tharp says this was the first time in English literature that a hero is represented by a woman - a heroine - who triumphs.
This is actually Tharp's first time working with children in a ballet presentation. Some 20 students have been cast in the production, all students from the RWB's Professional and Recreational Division.
"Children are extraordinary in the sense that they can do anything," Tharp said. "All you have to do is be very clear with them. They have no inhibitions. They haven't been told something isn't possible."
The ballet is a co-production with Atlanta Ballet. Tharp calls the first version "an earlier sketch." It was premiered in Atlanta in the winter of 2012 to positive reviews.
She has highly revised the production for its Winnipeg premiere, scheduled for for October 17 - 21.