The Royal Winnipeg Ballet returns to the National Arts Centre for The Wizard of Oz January 23rd through 25th. I spoke with Sarah Davey, second soloist, ahead of RWB’s upcoming run.
RWB put on a very impressive Nutcracker back in December, and I’m very excited for their return with Oz. This show is brings a new art form and new dimension to a story a lot of us grew up with and love. This creation was choreographed by Septime Webre, and the music was composed by Matthew Pierce. It is a co-production between Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and the Colorado Ballet. The show also features 22 young Ottawa-Gatineau dancers! “I think Septime does a pretty good job of telling what’s going on. There is a lot of storytelling that can get lost but I find that if you know the storyline really well, then you get to go in knowing. Those more familiar stories are probably better for people who are not familiar with ballet,” said Davey.
Davey will be dancing the role of Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch in the upcoming performance. Davey hails from the Ontario originally: “I grew up just outside of Burlington area. I moved to Winnipeg at 14 years old, joined the ballet school, graduated from that and joined the company in 2009.”
We start off as Miss Gulch, that nasty women that rides around on her bike. I have to ride a bike on stage—probably the most terrifying part of the show!
Davey’s role is an interesting one, the evil villain most of us grew up watching, and probably loathing. “We start off as Miss Gulch, that nasty women that rides around on her bike. I have to ride a bike on stage—probably the most terrifying part of the show!” Davey said that Miss Gulch “has the longest quick change ever—we have something like nine minutes to get out of harness, get unhooked from the bike, get dyed green, change shoes, costumes… I know that nine minutes seems like a lot, but we’re not stopping!”
The cherished and well-known tale of The Wizard of Oz here is different in a lot of ways from the film. Davey said, “It’s different, definitely. You’re having to tell the story without being able to speak. We have to portray the story with movement.” Davey and I exchanged stories about growing up with the movie, and she said “for me personally, with the Witch, I definitely take inspiration from the movie. At my nana’s house there were three movie options and that was one of them.” She mentioned that her favourite part of the show now is at odds with her childhood fear of the same scene in the movie: “I really like the monkey scene. Honestly, I did not like the witch scenes when I was a little kid, so it’s funny that it’s my favourite now!” With her own choreography she said, “for me, dancing, my favourite part is the last entrance of the witch. It’s definitely the most fun for me and she’s in her castle, but I won’t spoil too much!”
Almost most exciting about the production is the fact that there will be flying on stage, along with some puppetry! “There is flying in the production. We have a Toto—obviously we can’t have a mechanical thing on stage or a real dog. Toto is kind of like a puppet. The way they engineered that dog though is phenomenal,” Davey said.
Something like The Wizard of Oz, we all grew up watching this. These kinds of ballets are the best time for people to go. The story ballets, the familiar ones are really fun for people.
Davey’s advice for newcomers to dance is “start slow. Honestly though people get dragged to their first ballet as Swan Lake, and that’s difficult for a brand new ballet goer!” She says sometimes the most familiar stories are the best to start: “You know what’s going on and you get to see the story told through a different art form. Something like The Wizard of Oz, we all grew up watching this. These kinds of ballets are the best time for people to go. The story ballets, the familiar ones are really fun for people. It’s our job, as dancers, to bring the audience in and take them along on the story.”
Davey’s final remarks on the show were “please come, please have fun and enjoy, we love sharing our stories with everybody!” On that note, don’t miss out on this wonderful story ballet!
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet performs The Wizard of Oz from January 23rd to 25th at the National Arts Centre (1 Elgin Street) at 8pm, with one 2pm matinee on the 25th. Tickets cost $44-$150 online and at the box office. $15 Live Rush and half-price student tickets are also available.