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Royal Winnipeg Ballet Soloist Sophia Lee. Sophia is the lead character Annie in RWB’s new creation, Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation.
Photo by Réjean Brandt Photography


September 20, 2014





The Indian Residential School system remains a dark and devastating chapter of Canada’s history. The impact of the forced separation of Aboriginal children and their families remains a heavy weight in the lives of Survivors and their families. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is one of the ways Survivors are able to put on the record the atrocities and abuse that took place in these institutions and is a result of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement in 2007. With national and community events taking place across the country, testimonies from those who endured abuse, suffering and alienation are able to recount the truth on the record. The aim is to record to the fullest extent possible, the experiences of children who attended the schools, staff and anyone else impacted by the schools recall from their experiences.




Moving forward from this dark chapter of history is by no means an easy task, but there is a hope that as the truths of the past are added to the depiction of Canadian history, Canadians can move towards a reconciliation and appreciation for the diversity found in Canadian culture.




Throughout history, art has been one way that humanity has found the momentum to move forward. Artistic expression has long been a valuable medium to reflect on the past and inspire the future. It has long been an effective voice for social change and a way to bring people together. This was a belief shared by the late Elder Mary Richard, former Chair and CEO of Circle of Life Thunderbird House. As a long time subscriber to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Elder Richard approached RWB Artistic Director André Lewis over ten years ago and it was through their conversation that the idea for a RWB ballet partnered with the Aboriginal community was born.




 “The work has its genesis in the early 2000s when Mary Richard, an Aboriginal leader and Elder from Winnipeg approached us with an idea for an Aboriginal inspired story,” said Lewis. “Her ultimate hope was for a work that would bring the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community closer together. She believed ballet could achieve this powerfully and that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was a natural vehicle to attain this aim.”





Several years later, Tina Keeper: actress, producer, former Member of Parliament, RWB Board member and aboriginal activist, discussed with Lewis the idea of creating a ballet inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and its’ goals. As conversations continued surrounding the RWB’s next full-length ballet, it was decided that Going Home Star - Truth and Reconciliation would be a representation of the many stories, both told and untold, of Indian Residential School Survivors and their families.




Keeper joined the project as Associate Producer and along with Lewis, assembled the creative team to bring Elder Richard’s idea to life. Renowned choreographer Mark Godden, Canadian novelist and TRC Honorary Witness Joseph Boyden, Canadian multimedia artist KC Adams are some of the artists that will provide the building blocks for the dancers of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet.



Supported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s new creation, Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation, is a representation of the many stories, both told and untold, of Indian Residential School Survivors and their families.

The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, commended the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for creating a ballet that clearly links the Indian Residential Schools with their ongoing legacy, and truth with reconciliation. "These are profound, compelling themes, not just for Aboriginal families and communities, but for all Canadians," said Justice Murray Sinclair when RWB announced that they would be presenting this work to open their 75th Anniversary season.



The full-length ballet also features a full-length original musical score composed by Toronto-based Greek Canadian composer, Christos Hatzis. Inspired by his own Christian faith and Canadian Inuit culture, Hatzis paints a rich sonic tapestry weaving recordings of Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq and Steve Wood and the Northern Cree Singers throughout his score. Tagaq, well-known for performing with Björk and winning numerous awards, will be performing live with Steve Wood and the Northern Cree singers alongside the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for all Winnipeg performances.


Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation runs from October 1-5 at the Centennial Concert Hall. Tickets available at

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.