Dustin Rodgers

Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Yayoi Ban in a mask.

In November, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company will perform for the first time since February, in a series of performances called Fast Forward. The shows will feature all original choreography created by the dancers, performed in a physically distanced way. 

In preparation, company dancers have had to adjust their routines in many ways, not least of which is being grouped into smaller cohorts. Yayoi Ban is a soloist with the RWB, who has danced with the company for more than 15 years, and she says that despite the changes she’s glad for the return to rehearsing.

“I’m happy that I’m dancing and rehearsing again, even if it is in small groups,” says Yayoi. “Compared to dancing at home, I really appreciate that I can practice on a good floor. Now that I’m back in the studio I can really push myself.”

Being back in the studio has at times felt like a different world for the dancers, who now wear masks at all times while in the RWB building, including during rehearsals. In addition, dancers have regimented arrival and departure times, and are only able to dance with the other members of their cohort, changes that minimize risk for the dancers but have at times been difficult to adjust to.

“It’s a bit of a hassle that there’s only eight of us,” says Yayoi, about the segmenting of company dancers into cohorts. “The energy is different, with fewer (not less) people. I miss the others. We’re already a small company, and to be put into groups of eight it feels really small.”

The new safety measures have made it possible for the dancers to resume doing what they love, and everyone, including Yayoi, is thrilled by the chance to perform again. Fast Forward, a title which references the RWB’s popular, long-running ballet series from the 80s and 90s, features dancers choreographing on other dancers from their cohort, and for the RWB company, it represents the best opportunity to showcase their talents since the pandemic started.

“I want to do well at the show in November, I want to do my best for the audience,” says Yayoi, who finds strength performing with the company. “It’s helpful watching other people dancing, I really enjoy it. I feel good, positive energy in my group. It’s good to have the company back again.”

For more information on the RWB’s safety measures and upcoming performances, including Fast Forward and Nutcracker Suite, the December show series, be sure to check out http://www.rwb.org or consider follow the RWB on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.