André Lewis has spent the majority of his career with Canada’s first professional dance company, accepting the position of Artistic Director in 1996. Since then, Lewis has been the driving force behind the new and innovative works that have dramatically rejuvenated the Company’s repertoire.
Lewis has commissioned numerous blockbuster ballets such as Mark Godden’s Dracula in 1998, Jorden Morris’ critically acclaimed Peter Pan in 2006 and Jorden Morris’ Moulin Rouge® – The Ballet in 2009. He was instrumental in the 1999 creation of a new Nutcracker for the Company and in 2012, Lewis and Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director John McFall co-commissioned a new creation by celebrated choreographer Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and the Goblin.
In 2013, Lewis commissioned another outstanding new creation in conjunction with New York choreographer Lila York. The full-length ballet The Handmaid’s Tale was a bold adaptation of the novel of the same name by Governor General Award-winning Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. In 2014 for the RWB’s 75th anniversary season, Lewis commissioned choreographer Mark Godden to create the groundbreaking work Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation representing the many stories, both told and untold, of Indian Residential School Survivors and their families. This commissioned piece, which coincided with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, received national critical acclaim and is based on a story by Canadian author Joseph Boyden.
Lewis has staged Rudi Van Dantzig’s production of Romeo & Juliet in Italy, Greece, France and in 2015 for the Hong Kong Ballet. He has been a judge for the Varna International Ballet Competition, USA International Ballet Competition, and the Youth America Grand Prix.
Further underscoring Lewis’ passion for dance are his multiple appearances at the Rural Retreat for International Dance Leaders, held in England. His work has been recognized through receiving both the Governor General’s Meritorious Award and the Jubilee Medal, as well as being featured in the television series Chaucun sa route.
Galina Yordanova trained for nine years at Baku in the USSR and for five years with the Bolshoi Ballet where she received her teacher’s diploma in 1960. She held diplomas in Choreography and Teacher Training from the G.I.T.S. in Moscow. In 1960, Madame Yordanova was Ballet Mistress of the Varna Norodna Opera in Bulgaria where she staged a number of classics including Romeo and Juliet, Raymonda, Le Corsaire, Coppélia, Les Sylphides, Giselle and Nutcracker. She has also worked extensively with the Ballet der Deutschen Oper, Berlin and with companies in Madrid and Valencia, Spain and in Nagoya and Kyoto, Japan.
In 1980, Yordanova began to spend a portion of each year in Winnipeg, teaching at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Professional Division Summer Session. Her expert teaching of the Russian style was an important component of the development of the teaching style of the school.
In 1995, she joined the artistic faculty as resident Guest Teacher. She worked extensively with the RWB dancers to prepare them for the Company’s 1987 premiere of Swan Lake, which she staged in the Russian style. In 1990, Yordanova shared her expertise and talent in the staging of the RWB’s premiere of La Bayadère, Act II, featuring members of the Company together with young artists from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.
In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the RWB School in 1996, she staged Don Quixote, with the School’s entire student body performing alongside Company members who were school graduates in the lead roles.
For the RWB’s 1999–2000 season, Galina Yordanova, along with Nina Menon, choreographed a new version of Nutcracker for the Company which premiered in Ottawa at the NAC on December 2, 1999.
Nina Menon joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet after graduating from the Royal Conservatory of The Hague and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Professional Division. As a member of the corps de ballet, she danced numerous soloist roles and, in 1990, she made her choreographic debut at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s choreographic workshop. The success of this ballet and others, plus the commissioning by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet of her popular ballet La Soif, led Artistic Director André Lewis to appoint Nina Menon Resident Choreographer.
Highlights of Menon’s residency include Drunken Butterflies, a ballet choreographed to polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki. This ballet explores the life of an immigrant family through dance and film. In 1999, she collaborated with Galina Yordanova on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s new version of Nutcracker which premiered in Ottawa at the NAC. In the same season, Menon shared with the world her East Indian ancestral roots by creating a ballet to The Gita Govinda. Collaborating with composer Mychael Danna (Felicia’s Journey, Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair), Menon’s ballet, The Gitagovinda, told an ancient story from her personal connection with the poem. The sacred poem was passed down to the choreographer by her grandmother.
During her residency, Nina Menon choreographed several ballets for the Professional Division students and taught dance at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Recreational Division. She now lives in Montreal with life partner Mark Godden and their two sons. She teaches ballet at Sheila Parkins Dance Academy and several Montessori schools. In her spare time, she loves to garden.
Paul Daigle has a first-hand understanding of the intricacies of designing for dance. A graduate of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Daigle went on to perform for two seasons with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet before leaving in 1988 to pursue a career in design.
Daigle has established a very creative and productive relationship with choreographer Mark Godden. Together they have collaborated on a variety of creations for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, including sets and costumes for Sequoia, Godden’s 1989 Clifford E. Lee Choreographic Award winning ballet, Godden’s two award-winning pas de deux, Myth and La Princesse et le Soldat, as well as Forms of Distinction, Rapsodie espagnole, and seven one-act Godden ballets: Symphony No. 1, Angels in the Architecture, Dame aux Fruits, La Folía, A Darkness Between Us, Shepherd’s Wake and Miroirs.
During the 1997–1998 RWB season, he redesigned the sets for Antony Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading and the costumes for Paquita. He also collaborated with Mark Godden on two new works, The Rite of Spring and Anywhere But London.
During the 1998–1999 season, Daigle designed the scenery and costumes for Mark Godden’s first full-length ballet, Dracula. In 2003, he went on to win the Manitoba Motion Picture Industry Association Blizzard Award for best costume design for Guy Maddin’s film adaptation of Godden’s Dracula.
Daigle designed the costumes for the RWB’s Nutcracker, which premiered at Ottawa’s NAC on December 2, 1999. In 2003, he was reunited with Mark Godden to create the scenery and costume design for Godden’s full-length creation The Magic Flute, which premiered in Winnipeg.
Daigle has created set and costume designs for numerous ballet and theatre companies including Ballet British Columbia, Ballet Jörgen, Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, Alberta Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Kiev Ballet, Compañía Nacional de Danza (Mexico City), Theatre New Brunswick (Fredericton), Neptune Theatre (Halifax) and Theatre Aquarius (Hamilton). Daigle has had the honour to design new creations for world renowned choreographers Mark Morris, Kevin O’Day and Alexei Ratmansky.
Paul Daigle’s most recent work includes costume designs for Mark Godden’s Svengalli and costume designs for Michael Pink’s critically acclaimed full-length production of La Boheme for Milwaukee Ballet which premiered in October 2012.
Brian Perchaluk is a set and costume designer based in Winnipeg. Born and raised in rural Manitoba, Perchaluk graduated from the University of Winnipeg and the National Theatre School of Canada and later went on to apprentice at the Banff Centre. His designs have been featured on stages across the country including the Neptune Theatre, Atlantic Ballet Theatre, Canadian Stage, Theatre Passe Muraille, the Grand Theatre, the Blyth Festival, the National Arts Centre, Persephone Theatre, Theatre Calgary, Alberta Theatre Projects, the Citadel Theatre, The Vancouver Playhouse, the Arts Club Theatre, the Belfry Theatre and two seasons each at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals.
In Winnipeg, he has often worked for Prairie Theatre Exchange, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, Rainbow Stage, Le Cercle Molière, Manitoba Opera and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, where he has designed more than 40 productions.
Among his favourite credits are M. Butterfly for the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and the National Arts Centre, Les Misérables for the Neptune Theatre, Time and the Conways for the Shaw Festival, Nutcracker for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Hay Fever for Theatre Calgary.
In 1999, Brian Perchaluk received a Gemini Award for outstanding production design for his work on Journey and in 2003 a Jessie Richardson Award for outstanding set design for Mary’s Wedding.
Michael J. Whitfield has an extensive background in lighting design for theatre, ballet and opera.
A native of Victoria, B.C., Whitfield received his training in theatre at the University of Victoria, Villanova University and the University of Illinois. In 1974, he began a long association with the Stratford Festival, where he was for many years the Resident Lighting Designer and was responsible for the lighting design of a great variety of plays and musicals, including The Mikado, Amadeus and King Lear. He has worked extensively in Canadian regional theatre and his work is often seen at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.
Whitfield is also much in demand as a lighting designer for opera and his designs have been featured at the San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera Company, Houston Grand Opera, the Minnesota Opera, the Dallas Opera, the Welsh National Opera and for Canadian companies in Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa, Hamilton, Edmonton, Calgary, Banff and Vancouver. His lighting has been featured at the Canadian Opera Company for over 30 years, where designs included Wozzeck and Madama Butterfly.
In the world of ballet, Brian Whitfield’s work has been represented by Alice and The Nutcracker at the National Ballet of Canada, The Merry Widow for the American Ballet Theatre and Romeo & Juliet at the Finnish National Ballet.
For Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, his lighting design has also been seen in The Sleeping Beauty and Anne of Green Gables.