Royal WOW Ballet

  • Mar. 4, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Tara Birtwhistle is quite the character in her latest

It may be Tara Birtwhistle’s swan song tour, but when she dances across the Kelowna Community Theatre’s stage this month there will be no lily white feathery princess types in sight.

A 20-year veteran of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Birtwhistle relishes a good character and plans to tear into her part as the Queen of Hearts in the company’s Wonderland production.

“I’ve very much been a dance actress throughout my career,” said the ballerina, who won a Gemini Award for dancing Lucy in Guy Maddin’s film of the RWB’s Dracula.

To be clear, her acting efforts are limited to the dancing sphere, with parts like Cinderella’s step-mother and Queen of the Night from Magic Flute, to her name; although, Wonderland takes her well out of the box with some vocal additions to the role.

This production adds a multi-media component, which includes some film vignettes and a unique musical score.

“It’s something that the ballet world has never seen before,” said Birtwhistle.

“I think audiences demand more than just pure dance now,” she added. “I think they want to see more production value.”

Whether it’s the pace of technology or our addiction to instant gratification, with the new demand comes a new place for creativity that Birtwhistle and her colleagues have had some fun exploring in Wonderland.

“We will always still do traditional ballets like Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty because that, to us, is like Shakespeare to theatre,” she said, adding she nevertheless believes ballet will change and evolve.

Choreographed by Shawn Hounsell, this show gave the dancers a fair amount of freedom to improvise their own parts with some of the dancers struggling to literally find their voice and dance with a mic.

It’s a fitting way for Birtwhistle to end her time in front of an audience.

“I’ve worked on a lot of things in my career, so I feel like I’ve done what I wanted to do,” she said.

When she hangs up her stage shoes on May 5, Birtwhistle will become the company’s ballet mistress, though she has not had a chance to even think about her impending retirement.

“I have a daughter who is 21 months old and she’ll be coming with me on tour,” she said. “So my mind is really sort of set on if she is going to enjoy the tour.”

Birtwhistle returned to dancing just four months after her pregnancy, but said it took a full year for her body to regain it’s former strength.

As to whether this next generation of her family will take to the stage, Birtwhistle said it will not be her decision.

“It’s a rewarding career, but it’s very difficult,” she said.

Wonderland plays at the Kelowna Community Theatre on Tuesday, March 22 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Full-price tickets run $73, while student and youth tickets cost $42 and seniors $62.

Just Posted

Cherry growers hope to avoid helicopter use

Extended rainfall can damage cherry crops

Kelowna bike share program proving popular

In the first week alone, 500 riders took 1,000 rides the city’s 180 DropBikes

Kelowna film festival coming back for third year

The Okanagan Society of Independent Filmmaking’s IndieFest Film Festival goes July 14

Okanagan Business Excellence to recruit blood donors

West Kelowna campaign partners with Canadian Blood Services

Kelowna live-in youth drug treatment program pursued

Fundraising goal for Bridge Youth & Family Services project is to raise $10 million

B.C. BMX kid wows GoPro with homemade video

Eight-year-old Rex Johnson wins award for inventive video

UPDATE: Police say story of pretend cops ‘arresting’ woman in CRA scam fake

Vancouver police urge people not take calls from anyone saying they’re from the Canada Revenue Agency

Almost 2,400 young athletes set to compete at BC Summer Games

Full list of participants was released Friday for the Cowichan Valley event

Family raises money for B.C. man burned in campfire mishap

Harold Duncan-Williams suffered first, second and third degree burns when his shirt caught on fire

Canucks ink Markus Granlund to one-year extension

Finnish forward’s contract is worth US$1.475 million

Warning issued as swimmer dies, boater missing this week in B.C. waters

Coroner says statistics show a spike in drownings beginning in May and rising through August

Around 40,000 lightning strikes and over 200 new fires in B.C. in the past two days

‘We’re expecting that the worst of the lightning is now over’

PHOTO: Shark spotted near Vancouver beach

Woman snaps photo of a seal, heron and what’s believed to be a Pacific spiny dogfish

Possibly lightning-caused fire burns within metres of homes in Kamloops

Grass fire remains under control by BC Wildfire Service

Most Read