Royal Winnipeg Ballet triple-bill combines Tara Birtwhistle’s swan song with the rhythm of the big city

April 26, 2011

Ballet, Press Releases

two ballet dancers in black

Royal Winnipeg Ballet triple-bill combines Tara Birtwhistle’s swan song with the rhythm of the big city

Winnipeg, Manitoba (April 12, 2011) – Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents its season closer Bright Lights, Big City at the Centennial Concert Hall May 4-8, 2011. This dynamic triple-bill includes the RWB premiere of Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Peter Quanz’s In Tandem and features Principal Dancer Tara Birtwhistle’s farewell performance, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

dancer in black tutu standing on pointe

Jacelyn Lobay Photograph : David Cooper

In the Upper Room

Described as “fierce, driving and relentless,” the unique style of American dance legend Twyla Tharp is infused throughout In the Upper Room. This piece, set to music by Philip Glass, is considered innovative for its wide use of distinctly modern movements that meld classical ballet with jazz.

One of the most influential figures in dance today, Tharp has choreographed more than 135 ballets, five Hollywood movies, four Broadway shows and has written three books. She has received a deluge of awards, working with everyone from Bob Fosse to Baryshnikov. Tharp’s groundbreaking choreography has forever changed the face of modern ballet. This signature work gives you a taste of Tharp’s Big Apple with pulsating rhythms and innovative, energetic movement.

“A lot of people insisted on a wall between modern dance and ballet. I’m beginning to think that walls are very unhealthy things.” – Twyla Tharp

In Tandem

In Tandem is a dynamic choreographic journey characterized by energetic and pulsing movements that have been called “stretchy,” “edgy” and “angular.” Originally commissioned by and performed at the Works & Process Series of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, In Tandem fuses classical ballet vocabulary with contemporary language.

Choreographed by RWB School alumnus Peter Quanz, this neo-classical ballet is set to the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Double Sextet” by American composer, Steve Reich. The music carries the dancers swiftly and vibrantly from beginning to end, unmistakably echoing both the darker and lighter moods of the performance.


dancer in yellow dress in front of a blue door

Tara Birtwhistle in The Ecstasy of Rita Joe


The Ecstasy of Rita Joe

Bright Lights, Big City marks Tara Birtwhistle’s final performances as a professional dancer. She retires after two and a half outstanding decades with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. As her farewell performance, Tara has specially selected the poignant and heartrending ballet The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is an adaptation of George Ryga’s play of the same name. It is a deeply moving ballet centering around a young Aboriginal woman who leaves her reservation in the hope of finding a better life in the city. With little schooling and a poor grasp of the English language, Rita Joe cannot support herself.  She quickly becomes entrapped in a desolate world of prostitution and drug addiction. The Ecstasy of Rita Joe was originally commissioned in 1971 by the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood Association to mark the centenary of the signing of Indian Treaties Number 1 and 2.

Tickets for Bright Lights, Big City range from $30-$92 and are available through the RWB Customer Service Office at 380 Graham Avenue or by calling (204) 956-2792 or 1-800-667-4792 toll free. Tickets are also available through Ticketmaster or by calling (204) 253-ARTS (2787). Groups of ten or more can save up to 15% on ticket prices in most sections. Call the RWB Groups Manager at (204) 957-3494 or email

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet is proud to acknowledge Bright Lights, Big City Performance Sponsors Carlson Wagonlit Travel and The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company and Performance Partner Arnold Bros Transport for their generous support. The RWB also wishes to acknowledge the support of its funders: the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Province of Manitoba, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Winnipeg Arts Council and Arts Stabilization Manitoba.


In the Centennial Concert Hall lobby, a half hour before curtain, a pre-show chat will precede every performance. A backstage tour with RWB Stage Manager Ingrid Kottke will unveil the behind the scenes magic following the Friday, May 6 performance. Following the Sunday, May 8 matinee, audience members may meet the dancers on the Piano Nobile Gallery of the Concert Hall, where RWB dancers will answer questions and sign autographs.

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