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Royal Winnipeg Ballet teaches master classes, auditions dancers in NWA

Royal Winnipeg Ballet teaches, recruits in NWA by Monica Hooper | January 22, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada’s top ballet company and the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America, is hosting one of two its U.S.-based auditions as well as two master classes Jan. 23-24 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. (Courtesy Photo)

One of only two U.S.-based auditions for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet will be right here in Fayetteville.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division will host auditions and a master class Jan. 23-24 at the Walton Arts Center. The first master class will be for students in grades 8-12 from 2:45-4:15 p.m. Jan. 23, and a master class for adults is 4:30-6 p.m. on Jan. 23 in Starr Theater. The classes are free, and registration is encouraged, but not mandatory.

"Master classes that we hold during our audition tours are basically a standard ballet class, but a place where we welcome everyone," explains school Director Stephane Leonard. He adds that it also allows participants "to get the sense of what our school is about and our methods of teaching."

"The master class will definitely have more of an interactive aspect than the audition class," he says and will be based mostly on the needs of those participating. Dancers will not be assessed during these classes.

"Sometimes the term 'master class' may sound either intimidating or more than what it is. It is a ballet class -- no different than other classes, except maybe there's more of a sharing aspect on the methodology and pedagogy of ballet," Leonard says.

The master classes will offer both students and adults an opportunity to expand on their craft.

"Ballet, even for myself, is an ongoing learning discipline. Even when you go back into more rudimentary or basic aspects of the training, it benefits everyone to get deeper into the technique itself," he adds. "I teach ballet. I'm 55. I partly do ballet -- not on the stage anymore, of course, but I keep learning every day. It doesn't matter the level of study."

Johanne Gingras, Teacher Training Program director at Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Kendra Woo, an instructor in the professional division of RWB who serves on the artistic faculty, will lead the master classes at Walton Arts Center.

Gingras has been with RWB since 1984 and teaches ballet, pointe, character and repertoire. She also conducts auditions and teaches master classes during the annual RWB School Audition Tour.

"Adults that are teaching students would benefit tremendously to join her class," Leonard enthuses.

Woo began dancing with RWB Recreational Division when she was 5 years old. After an impressive career as a dancer, she graduated from the RWB School Teacher Training in 2022 and teaches with the RWB School Professional Division.

Leonard says the auditions Jan. 24 are akin to a simpler ballet class. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School is seeking dancers to join one of three full-time Professional Division programs: Ballet Academic, The Anna McCowan-Johnson Aspirant, and the Teacher Training Program. Applicants will audition as a group.

"The audition itself is a little bit simpler than the standard ballet class," he explains. "The level of technique is not the only thing we're looking at." For instance, for students in fifth to seventh grade, he says, "we are looking for aptitudes and ability, and not necessarily somebody that has a lot of background in dance or has been training since they're 3 years old."

Instead, "we look for the physical aptitude for dance: Are they musical? Do have a natural ability to jump or a good sense of coordination," he says. "We'll look at their flexibility," in addition to watching them do "fun exercises -- waltzing around for us to see coordination and musicality."

He adds that he hopes dancers don't feel that they "aren't ready" to audition.

"We're looking for raw talent and abilities. Our mission is to train them into professional dancers," he specifies.

For students in eighth grade and higher, RWB is looking for students who will "be able to merge" with the students who are already enrolled in the school.

"These auditions are the first phase of a longer audition process. Once the student is invited, we hopefully are going to see them in our summer session where we will definitely go much deeper into assessing their level of abilities, [to see] if they can join us for the regular session."

Leonard says that those auditioning should "come with an open mind," and warns them not to pressure themselves into thinking that they have to live up to certain expectations.

"The best thing is just to try. We're not there to intimidate anyone. We want to discover abilities and talents. What we like to see very much is their drive, their desire [and] their joy for it," he says.

"I know sometimes auditions can be nerve-wracking. But it's important for us to see that they like it, they love it, and not only put themselves under pressure. So their enjoyment [and] their joy for dance is very important. So come in, relax and try. Try your best. That's my best advice."



Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Audition, Master Classes

WHAT -- The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division will host two master classes and auditions in Fayetteville.

WHEN -- Master classes are at 2:45 p.m. Jan. 23 for eighth grade or older; 4:30 to 6 p.m. for adults Jan. 23. Auditions are for students entering sixth grade and older in September 2023. Auditions for students in grades 5-7 begin at 4 p.m. Jan. 24 with grades 8 and older at 5:45 p.m. Students who are selected from these auditions will be invited to participate in a summer intensive hosted by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

WHERE -- Starr Theatre at the Walton Arts Center, 495 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville

COST -- Master class is free; preregistration is encouraged at, but walk-ups can also register on site one hour before their class begins. The cost to audition is $50 per dancer, and while online pre-registration is not mandatory, it is recommended. To pre-register, go to

INFO -- Dancers are encouraged to arrive an hour before their audition to warm up and to bring a photograph of themselves facing front, showing a tendu in second position, with arms in second position, and to wear a leotard (bodysuit), tights and soft shoes for their audition class. Pointe shoes are not required. Students who do not have soft ballet slippers and/or leotard and/or tights are still encouraged to attend and wear socks and tight-fitting clothes that will allow them to move. Long hair should be in a bun if possible, or off the face. More information at

  photo  “Ballet, even for myself, is an ongoing learning discipline," says Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Director Stephane Leonard. "I teach ballet. I’m 55. I partly do ballet — not on the stage anymore, of course, but I keep learning every day. It doesn’t matter the level of study.” (Courtesy Photo)
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