André Lewis is a spontaneous kind of guy. The artistic director of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) has been with the company for more than 40 years, but he says he may never have wound up with them if not for a fluke.
“I first came to Winnipeg in 1975,” Lewis says. “My girlfriend at the time, with whom I’d trained in Ottawa, said, ‘Why don’t we go visit my parents in Australia?’ We planned on taking the train out west to fly there, but stopped in Winnipeg to do the (RWB’s) summer school. She ended up hurting her back and went back to Ottawa, but I just stayed here.”
Despite having no plans to stay and not knowing a word of English, Lewis fell in love with the RWB and became a lifer with the company. He worked his way up, becoming artistic director in 1995.
Lewis’ home of 16 years was acquired in a similarly spontaneous manner.
“(My wife and I) were desperate to find a house,” Lewis says. “We’d looked at 40 or 50 houses but couldn’t find the right one. I happened to be on tour in the Maritimes when my wife called and said, ‘I think I found one.’ She faxed me some info, and I gave her the okay to make an offer without having seen it.”
Lewis and his family take a clean, uncluttered approach to their home, with an emphasis on art over objects.
“It’s important to feel comfortable at home,” Lewis says. “I have an intense work life, so keeping the home calm is important.”
1) Snowman painting “This is a painting of my wife and daughter. It was done as part of a fundraiser for RWB by the artist Shannon Lovelace. My wife really wanted it and bid for it in the auction. The funny thing is, she was bidding against some people with very deep pockets, but because they knew it was her and our daughter, they didn’t outbid her. The organizers were a little upset, because we could’ve gotten more money!”
2) Mirror “The mirror also comes from Caroline’s mom. It originally came from Caroline’s grandmother who was a socialite in Manhattan in the early 20th century.”
3) Dining room painting “This painting belonged to my wife’s father when she was growing up in England. Although she’s American, born in New York, she grew up and studied in London. We have no idea where he acquired this painting. The botanical sketches around it also belonged to her mother.”
4) Henny’s painting “This is one of two paintings that were done by a dancer at the Dutch National Ballet, where my wife danced for many years. These paintings belonged to her friend Henny Juriens, who was at the Dutch National Ballet with her and eventually became artistic director at RWB. He and his wife were killed in a car crash in 1989, and these paintings were left to us.”
5) Music library “Music is obviously a big part of our lives. We both love opera, though my wife Caroline is the real aficionado. Me, not as much. Although, I remember as a kid I loved a CBC show called Saturday Night at the Opera that ran for years and years.”
6) Mantelpiece “I built this myself, actually. It’s my claim to fame in this house. We had some shelves that didn’t fit correctly, so Caroline suggested I build something. The guys in the RWB shop cut the materials carefully for me, then I built it.”