Its dancers have thrilled and entertained audiences worldwide for three-quarters of a century. Now, the founding of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has been formally recognized by the federal government as an “event of historic significance.”
The company, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014, was presented with a bronze plaque during a special ceremony held in late December 2014 honouring its great contribution to the cultural fabric of Canada.
“Known around the world, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is truly a centre of excellence and a cultural leader in Canada,” said The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. “As we celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary in 2014, our Government is proud to see the Royal Winnipeg Ballet designated as a national historic event.”
The RWB was founded in 1939 as the Winnipeg Ballet Club. Launched by ballet directors and teachers Gweneth Lloyd and Betty Farrally, the company’s first performance was at a local town pageant.
In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II granted the dance company a Royal charter, and it was renamed the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which was founded in 1953, is responsible for designating “events of historical significance” to the country. Prior to that, designations were made by an Advisory Board for Historic Site Preservation —established in 1919 James B. Harkin, then-Commissioner of the Dominion’s national park system.
To earn a designation today, nomination proposals are submitted to the board and reviewed annually. A key component for consideration is whether the person, place or event put forward for nomination is of national significance. Often, nominations are rejected because this bigger picture does not take priority.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s nomination was successful because it was one of Canada’s earliest ballet companies and it helped to establish ballet as a theatrical dance form in Canada. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents uniquely Canadian performances that appeal to broad sections of Canadian society, but it also shares these performances around the world.
The company began touring throughout Canada starting in the 1950s and has since expanded to the world stage, solidifying its presence as a national symbol.
1939 –The Winnipeg Ballet Club is founded by Gweneth Lloyd and Betty Farrally.
1953 –Winnipeg Ballet receives the first Royal charter granted by Queen Elizabeth II, becoming the first Royal ballet company of the Commonwealth.
1959 –Command performance for Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.
1965 –First Canadian company invited to represent Canada at the British Commonwealth Festival of the Arts, performing in Wales, Scotland and England.
1974 –First Western company to visit Cuba since the revolution.
1975 –First Canadian company to tour Israel.
1981 –Artistic Director Arnold Spohr receives Dance Magazine Award for outstanding contribution to the world of dance.
1990 –The Royal Winnipeg Ballet tours Europe and the Soviet Union (the only Canadian ballet company to have toured the U.S.S.R.). RWB performs for the first time in Hungary, East Germany and The Netherlands.
1995 –The RWB tours 13 Japanese cities.
1998 –Artistic Director Emeritus Arnold Spohr receives 1998 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award at Rideau Hall ceremony.
2010 –RWB shatters box office records, presenting Moulin Rouge ® − The Ballet to nearly 50, 000 audience members across North America.
2014 –Opening the 75th anniversary season, a new commissioned ballet, Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation, premiered in October. The founding of the RWB is officially designated by the federal government as an “event of historic significance.”