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Punching above its weight class

April 28, 2023

4 minute read
Post Contributed by Scotty Dure, American Sign Language Interpreter, E-Quality Communication Centre of Excellence Inc.
Leadership Winnipeg Class of 2022-2023

You may have heard the term “Punching above its weight class” and you may have heard of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) you may never have heard both used in the same sentence, however the RWB does just that! The individuals of Leadership Winnipeg with The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce found that out.

The day began with the passionate Kate Hodger-Fennel, Managing Director of RWB School, who had us convinced that there may be a prodigy among us. For those of us not lucky enough to be one, Kate informed us that the school has a plethora of programs available for the beginner to the more advanced dancer. From the Explorability program, Community Engagement, Recreational all the way to the RWB school, if it’s dance you want, they can provide you with amazing opportunities. Her enthusiasm was infectious.

As Managing Director of the Company, Chris Turyk, leads us into a discussion of the rich history of the RWB… the thumping begins! We were forewarned that the company would begin one of their six days of practice that would run throughout the duration of the day and into the evening. It is hard to believe the RWB was established quite some time ago, starting as a school in 1939 and becoming the RWB in 1953. Queen Elizabeth endowed the title “Royal” on the company. As we begin the tour, we are immediately hit with the enormity of the School and Company. Studios line the main hall and at the end is the entrance to the residency, which houses students year-round; anywhere between 60-120 students at any given time. The schedule on the screen is packed with dance programs running throughout the day. Costume designers hard at work working on the upcoming production ‘Peter Pan,’ oh did I forget to mention that all costume were designed and handcrafted in house? They are! I know you are thinking how cool would it be to see Peter Pan at the Ballet… it was! As we continue our tour, we are given an exclusive VIP, front row and centre experience as the Company rehearses the upcoming production, it is a must go and see!

The day continues with an informative panel composed of the Chair of the RWB Don Leitch, Chair for Winnipeg Art Gallery / Qaumajuq Nick Logan, Chair of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre Laurie Speers, Executive Director of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre Camilla Holland, General Director and CEO or the Manitoba Opera Larry Desrochers and Board Vice-President of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra Nick Slonosky. While providing us with insight on how to effectively run a board, we are reminded by Camilla that “it is less about competition and more about collaboration to help raise the level in Winnipeg.” In addition, a key component is ensuring that you have “the right people on your bus,” Larry Desrochers says as he references ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins. Both great suggestions as we each strive to find a place in Manitoba to help make a difference remembering that we need to identify where our love is, our joy is, and our passion lies.

As we head into the afternoon, we are met by an Arts Festival panel: Folklorama Executive Director Teresa Contoneo, Chair of the Festival du Voyaguer Eric Plamondon and Executive Director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival Lynne Skromeda. Stressing to us to share knowledge with each other as they once again speak of rising the boat together to succeed. The success they speak of is not individual, instead, as an arts community. By working together and gleaning helpful strategies from each other they were and are able to push through and thrive to continue to provide Manitoba with second to none, cultural and community experiences after the struggle of the pandemic.

Ending the day, we had CEO and Film Commissioner of Manitoba Film and Music, Rod Bruinooge and alumni of Leadership Winnipeg, Managing Director of Film Training Manitoba, Adam Smoluk reminding us that Manitoba is modest to a fault and we need to recognize that we have plenty to offer. Manitoba continues to move forward in the film sector by building capital, which in turn will provide more job opportunities in our community. Hello Hollywood!

I know it shouldn’t, but it still comes as a surprise to me that we have these gems in our own backyard. Collaboration, team work, breaking down silos may all be buzz words to some, however when it comes to the Arts community they live what they speak. I encourage all to head out and continue to support in whatever way best suits you, on the board or in the seats, find your passion and head towards it.

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