Romance in Winnipeg — Shall We Dance under the Stars?
by Doug & Morri
we dance? In Winnipeg, we certainly shall. When director
Peter Chelsom chose to film Shall We Dance,
Lopez and Richard Gere, in Winnipeg last summer, he made an
inspired choice. Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District,
with its handsome 1920s commercial buildings, was a perfect
stand-in for the movie’s Chicago setting. The movie also
needed dozens of local dancing extras and Winnipeg easily
filled that bill, too. Social, competitive and performance
dance has been booming for years in the Manitoba capital —
and dance-loving visitors can join in the fun.
Richard Gere & Jennifer Lopez stroll down
Ross Ave. on the Winnipeg set of their movie, "Shall We
Dance?" (opening in October 2004). Click to enlarge photos
on this page. Photo: Andrew Farago, Winnipeg.
Fridays at 8 p.m., the
Ted Motyka Dance Studio
public to a one-hour, group class, followed by practice
dancing until midnight ($7 per person). The evening we
dropped in, we joined 50 or so others for a class in
beginner’s Rumba and Viennese Waltz. The dapper and
unflappable Ted Motyka put us through our paces in his
Ted Motyka shows Morri proper technique.
Photo: Doug & Morri. Click to enlarge.
Located on the main floor of an ornate, former 1920s Royal
Bank building, the studio boasts marble walls, soaring
25-ft. moulded ceilings and a 2,000 sq. ft. hardwood floor.
Not surprisingly, for six weeks last summer, this airy,
spacious studio became the rehearsal space for JLo and Gere,
and for a dozen or so of Motyka’s students hired to play
ballroom dance students in the movie. Ted and his wife
Margaret Motyka, a former competitive ballroom couple, also
Morri shows off the spacious dance floor at
Ted Motyka Dance Studio. Photo: Doug & Morri. Click to
enjoyed our dance evening that we returned the following
Wednesday for another drop-in class, this time beginner’s
Salsa and Meringue (7 – 8 p.m., $6 per person). Then we
headed over to the Santa Cruz Restaurant & Bar, an
unpretentious hangout for Latinos and lovers of all things
Latin, to practice our newly acquired Salsa steps.
Unfortunately, the advertised dance sessions were delayed a
week. “No problema,” grinned Henry Cruz, one of the bar’s
owners and Salsa instructors, who good-naturedly gave us an
impromptu private Salsa lesson on an empty dance floor.
Henry Cruz gives Morri and impromptu Salsa
lesson at the Santa Cruz. Photo: Doug & Morri.
soon discovered that Cruz, originally from El Salvador,
plays “Dr. Dance” the D.J. in Shall We Dance. His
girlfriend, Crystal Zdep leads a Salsa Rueda performance
group, which practices at the Santa Cruz on Tuesdays or
Wednesday at 10 p.m. In Salsa Rueda, also known as Cuban-
or casino-style Salsa, couples dance in a wheel to called
steps. “Experienced Salsa dancers are always welcome to
join our practice,” says Zdep. Call Henry Cruz, at
204-227-4984, to confirm when the group meets.
Need a Dance Partner?
Winnipeg, you can find somewhere to dance almost every
single day! If you are looking for dance workshops, drop-in
studio lessons, practice sessions, couples or single dances
in Winnipeg, look no further than
Dance Info Canada
Patricia’s Dance Studio and Swing
Club in St. Boniface (a quick hop across the
Red River from downtown Winnipeg), drop-in classes in
Latin, Ballroom and Swing are just $5 per person. “We
encourage singles and couples,” says owner and dance
instructor Patricia Andersen. “Dancing is fabulous
exercise, a great stress reliever and a fun way to get away
from it all.”
Andersen is a coordinator for one of Winnipeg’s most
popular and romantic events: “Dancing under the Canopy.”
From July 8 to August 19, this free, open-air,
under-the-stars dance extravaganza runs Thursday evenings
at The Forks National Historic Site, overlooking the
confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
The band tunes up for Dancing Under the
Canopy. Photo: The Forks Renewal Corp. Click to enlarge.
dance instruction and dance demonstrations keep things
hopping when the live band takes a break. “I try to
showcase as many different studio groups and dance styles
as possible,” says Andersen.
Dancing Under the Canopy. Photo: The Forks
Renewal Corp. Click to enlarge.
Sponsored by the Crocus Investment Fund, “Dancing under the
Canopy” is now in its fifth year. Attendance has doubled
every year, with 3,500 dancers and spectators overflowing
the canopy each evening last year. The canopied area
accommodates about 250 dancers. Early birds grab the 100 or
so available chairs, so experienced spectators bring their
Getting into the swing "Under the Canopy".
Photo: The Forks Renewal Corp. Click to enlarge.
Canopy at The Forks is such a romantic space for dancing,”
explains Jeff Skinner, the event’s producer and Master of
Ceremonies. “We provide romantic lighting and a different
style of band each night. We’re delighted to see whole
families dancing, including many children and teens.” It’s
a very casual and unintimidating atmosphere. Last year, we
introduced dance lessons between sets so that more people
would get up and dance.”
Dancing Under the Canopy. Photo: The Forks
Renewal Corp. Click to enlarge.
tribute to the success and romance of the event, an entire
bridal party arrived last year to finish off their evening
“Dancing under the Canopy.” “Despite the crush,” says
Skinner, “dancers made room for the bride in her wedding
want to “Dance under the Canopy,” come early advises
Skinner. The music starts at 7 p.m., but people stake out
spots as early as 4:30. Others meet in the surrounding
patio restaurants and make an evening of it. Many reserve
for dinner, have drinks afterward and stay to dance under
the stars. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate Winnipeg’s
short but spectacular summers!
*Shall we Dance will appear in theatres in October 2004.
Dance in Winnipeg
Ted Motyka Dance Studio, 460 Main St. (204)
Patricia's Dance Studio, 407 Provencher
Blvd. (204) 667-0990.
Cruz Restaurant & Bar. Moderately priced Latin American
and Canadian cuisine, featuring homemade frijoles (refried
beans) and Salvadorean pupusas (like pizza). Free Salsa
lessons from 8 – 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays,
followed by dancing till 2:30 a.m. to live Latin music.
101-500 Portage Ave., (204) 774-8440.
Photo: Doug & Morri.
Winnipeg Dance Links
Dance Info website provides a handy calendar
of dance events, workshops and drop-in classes in Winnipeg.
Dance Bob's website, a quirky, personal
site, is a good resource for Country and Swing dance events
The City of Winnipeg’s Web site
is a comprehensive guide to local events,
including dance, music, performances and festivals. To find
event listings by month, from the home page click “Play”,
then the “What’s Going On” link.
Winnipeg – a
Dance Performance Mecca
If you’re lucky enough to be in Winnipeg when they are
performing on their home turf, be sure to take in
performances by the first and oldest ballet and modern
dance companies in the country — the Royal Winnipeg Ballet
(RWB) and Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers (WCD). In July,
the RWB performs at the outdoor Lyric Theatre in
Assiniboine Park, an unforgettable experience.
Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, founded by
dancer/choreographer Rachel Browne in 1964, is
oldest modern dance company. Its associated School of
Contemporary Dancers offers classes for all levels,
including adult, in modern dance, as well as ballet, tap,
jazz, African, hip-hop and break dancing. The school,
housed in beautiful new studios in the historic Exchange
District, is closed during the summer. Drop-in classes from
September to end of May: $15 per class. 104-211 Bannatyne
Ave. (204) 452-1239.
Songs That Dance (2003). Choreographer:
Rachel Browne. Dancer: Gabriela Rehak-Dovgoselets.
Photo: Hugh Conacher. Click to enlarge.
In Silence (2003).
Choreographer: Lesandra Dodson. Dancers: Jennifer Essex &
Gabriela Rehak-Dovgoselets. Photo: Hugh Conacher. Click to
May, while in Winnipeg, Doug & I (Morri) had the pleasure
of attending the Grandes Dames in Dance, an evening
of dance showcasing works by choreographers Rachel Browne
and Stephanie Ballard. For me, it was an opportunity to
renew acquaintance with Rachel, Stephanie and former
company members, like Jill Lhotka, who was in the Company
during the same years (1966-76) I was. On the wall, I found
a photograph (lower left) of myself from 1966,
dancing in Rachel Browne's "Evening in the Suburbs."
Evening in the Suburbs. Choreographer:
Rachel Browne. Dancers: Morri Mostow (kneeling), Barbara
Coiner (seated), Barbara Barsky (standing). Photo: J.
Coleman Fletcher. Click to enlarge
From left: Morri,
Stephanie Ballard, Doug, Rachel Browne
Read more about Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers
Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Founded in 1939 the
Royal Winnipeg Ballet is Canada's oldest ballet company and
the longest continuously operating ballet company in North
America. Drop in classes at its beautifully appointed
downtown studios are $15 per class. If you’re lucky enough
to find yourself in Winnipeg for the entire month of July,
you can take its twice weekly summer dance course for
adults, featuring a mix of ballet, musical theatre and
jazz. Dates: July 5 – 30, 2004. Cost: $88. 380 Graham Ave.
IF YOU'RE IN WINNIPEG THIS SUMMER:
CROCUS SQUARE & ROUND DANCE & CLOGGING DEMOS. (July
1, 2004) The Forks National Historic Site. Amateur cloggers,
round dancers and square dancers perform and ithen nvite
the audience to square dance with them. A grand place to
try out the basics. A popular event, now in its 7th year.
RED RIVER DANCE FESTIVAL & CHAMPIONSHIP.
(July 4, 2004) Balmoral Hall School,
630 Westminster Ave. Now in its 13th year, this competition
draws 200 highland dancer competitors from all over the
world. "A perfect introduction to highland dancing and the
traditions and culture of Scotland," says Gaelyn McGregor,
Director of the School of Scottish Arts, which organizes
SCOTDANCE CANADA CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (July 7 - 11,
2004). Opening ceremonies at The Forks. Dance Competition
at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
FOKLORAMA (August 1 – 14, 2004), one of the
world’s longest running and largest multicultural
festivals, celebrates more than 45 different ethnic
cultures in more than 40 pavilions throughout the city.
Experience Winnipeg’s different cultures, sample their
traditional cuisine and enjoy their shows, many of which
include traditional folkdance.
DANCIN' ON THE BOULEVARD (August 29, 2004 12:30 - 4:30
p.m.). Under the Canopy at The Forks National Historic
Site. Learn to social and country dance! Local dance
instructors and their students showcase what their studios
have to offer in 15 min. segments. "Stay for the
afternoon," says Bev Higginson, a past organizer and
regular social dancer. "It's all about having fun."
Sponsored by the Manitoba Dance Students Association.
GREAT MANITOBA GETAWAYS TRAVEL GUIDE.
Manitoba, an often overlooked travel destination, has a
great deal to offer visitors. The 2004 guide offers a
diverse array of packages, from a golf getaway on one of
the world’s largest lakes, a paleontology dig on the Red
River Escarpment to whale watching on Hudson’s Bay. Order
your free guide at 1-800-665-0040.
Dining Out in Winnipeg
With more restaurants per capita than any other Canadian
city, Winnipeg boasts an inviting mix of traditional and
fusion cuisine, including specialities drawn from its 45
Nhu Quynh, 609 Ellice Ave. (204) 786-1182. Open 11
a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday to Sunday. Closed Tuesday after 3 p.m.
No reservations taken. Exceptionally tasty and authentic
Vietnamese cuisine in a strictly utilitarian décor, which
undoubtedly contributes to the moderate prices. We
discovered this gem in a glowing review by Winnipeg Free
Press’ restaurant critic, Marion Warhaft, who awarded its
Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine her top rating. Based on our
dining experience there, we highly recommend this eatery.
Visit Doug and Morri for more Winnipeg dining & lodging
Contra dance is alive and well in Quebec, Canada