Alexander Gamayunov will take the stage for the final time in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's new production of The Handmaid's Tale. He plays the role of The Commander, a very dark character. 

"I like playing bad guys," he said, laughing. "Sometimes you can have fun doing that." Gamayunov said he was honoured to have been cast in that role by choreographer Lila York and really enjoyed working with her.

He predicts his final performance is going to be nerve-wracking. "I'll do my best, as I always do. It will obviously be a special event for me."

Gamayunov cited recurring injuries as the reason for his retirement at the age of 38.

"Your mind is there, but your body is telling you that you have to slow down, you're not young any more," he said.

Amanda Green and Alexander Gamayunov

Amanda Green and Alexander Gamayunov in RWB's The Handmaid's Tale. (RWB/Réjean Brandt Photography)

Gamayunov joined the company 12 years ago after leaving his native Ukraine where he danced with The National Ballet of Ukraine. It was a big move for a young dancer.

"I had no idea where I was going, not knowing the language, not knowing the country. I heard good things and I did know that there is a lot of dance in this country, both Ukrainian dance and ballet. 

"I'm so glad and so thankful to André Lewis. By hiring me to the RWB he opened the door for me to a new lifestyle, he gave me a new beginning."

As for highlights, his favourite role was Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, his favourite partner was Vanessa Lawson, now retired, and his favourite choreographers are Mark Godden, Shawn Hounsell and Rudi van Dantzig.

Gamayunov has certainly set down roots in Winnipeg. He is married to retired dancer Carrie Broda, and they have a four-month old baby, Jackson. He also enjoys helping out with some of the local Ukrainian folk dancing troupes like Rusalka.

He will now take up a teaching post with the RWB School Professional Division. But he will deeply miss performing on the stage. "I love it! It's a great experience to be on stage, not many people can experience that. You have this one shot and everything just changes. You become that character, the role you are playing, and everything -- the music, the audience, your partners -- the whole thing, you're part of it. I enjoy that."

"I've been dancing for so many years, but I still have a high heart rate before coming on stage for my entrance, like I've never done it before -- the excitement, this nerve coming through your body. The show goes on."

The show goes on for the final round for Alexander Gamayunov in The Handmaid's Tail at the Concert Hall, Oct. 16 - 20.