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1950's & 1960's

Canada's National Ballet School is established in 1959. Betty Oliphant, in addition to her role as the Associate Artistic Director at The National Ballet of Canada, is appointed the School's first Principal. Doors officially open September 28 with 27 full-time students, all female, and 202 after-school students (193 girls and 9 boys) in the "Ballet Division" program.

The School is incorporated as a Not For Profit organization in 1963 and the following year begins its first National Audition tour, upon receiving funding from the Canada Council for the Arts. Betty Oliphant accepts 11 students, including 5 boys, from the almost 90 who audition.

Alumni from this period include Karen Kain, Veronica Tennant, Nadia Potts, Martine van Hamel, Andrew Oxenham, Vanessa Harwood and Victoria Bertram.

Star Weekly, 1959

PDFStar Weekly, 1959
(article incomplete)

Weekend Magazine, 1960

PDFWeekend Magazine,
(article incomplete)

1970's & 1980's

Oliphant retires from her position as Associate Artistic Director at the Company to focus exclusively on the School in 1975. Mavis Staines, an NBS alum, has her performance career cut short by injury. She enrolls in the School's Teacher Training Program, graduates in 1982, and joins the staff of the School that same year. In 1984, the School celebrates its 25th anniversary with a Gala performed by both students and graduates at the O'Keefe Centre (now the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts) and Staines is appointed the School's Associate Artistic Director.

In 1988, the School opens its own performance venue, the Betty Oliphant Theatre, and the next year sees Betty Oliphant retire from her role as co-founder and Artistic Director of Canada's National Ballet School with Mavis Staines succeeding her.

Alumni from this period include Mavis Staines, James Kudelka, Lindsay Fischer, John Alleyne, Rex Harrington, Jennifer Fournier, Martine Lamy, Franky Augustyn, Gizella Witowsky, Robert Desrosier, Peter Ottman, Raymond Smith, Michael Greyeyes, Neve Campbell, Johan Persson, Dominique Dumais.

Toronto Star, 1984

PDFToronto Star, 1984
(article incomplete)


The School's staff expands when in 1991 modern dance instruction returns for the first time since 1971, spearheaded by renowned dance artist Peggy Baker. In 1992, neuromuscular specialist Irene Dowd begins professional development work at the School, and her teaching becomes a key component of the NBS program.

In 1993, the Prix de Lausanne visits NBS and invites it to become a Partner School. Mavis Staines goes on to serve as a Prix juror 3 times, chair the jury for 2 consecutive years, and becomes the first person in the Prix's history to serve as its President for two successive years.

The School introduces evening and Saturday Adult Ballet classes in 1996.  Led by Robert "Ballet Bob" McCollum, these classes quickly grow into one of the School's most popular initiatives. 1996 also sees a division of roles, when Anuschka Roes takes over the Teacher Training Program and Laurel Toto takes over the Junior Associates Program.

1998 sees expansion of a different sort for NBS, when it opens its retail wing, The Shoe Room. The student choreographic workshop, named after Stephen Godfrey, becomes an annual event.

To commemorate the School's 40th Anniversary in 1999, Staines, NBS staff and a Dutch joint working group coordinate the Not Just Any Body conference to advance Health, Well-Being and Excellence in Dance and Dancers.

Alumni from this period include Greta Hodgkinson, Guillaume Côté, Jaimie Tapper, Jason Reilly, Rebekah Rimsay, Xiao Nan Yu, Piotr Stanczyk, Aszure Barton, Matjash Mrozewski, Sabrina Matthews.

The Globe and Mail, 1993

PDFThe Globe and Mail,
(article incomplete)


NBS kicks off the new century with a bang when in 2003 it has a sod-turning ceremony to mark the beginning of Project Grand Jeté (PGJ), an ambitious $100 million capital expansion project spearheaded by then-Administrative Director Robert Sirman and Chair of the PGJ campaign, Margaret McCain. Phase I of PGJ is completed in 2005, and includes a new state-of-the-art dance training facility (The Celia Franca Centre) and restoration of two heritage buildings for academic classrooms (The Margaret McCain Academic Building) and administration offices (Lozinski House).

In 2006, Robert Sirman is appointed Director of the Canada Council for the Arts in June. Jeff Melanson assumes the role of Administrative Director at the School.  In 2007, the second phase of PGJ is completed, which is the refurbishment of the School's original Maitland Street buildings for expanded residence facilities. Since its completion, PGJ and its architects, Kuwabara, Payne, McKenna Blumberg Architects as well as Goldsmith, Borgal and Company Architects, have won nine prestigious international architectural awards. Also in 2007, NBS Administrative Director Jeff Melanson assumes the role Executive Director and, along with Artistic Director Mavis Staines, becomes NBS' Co-CEOs.

The Shoe Room celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2008 by launching both a cross-Canada pointe shoe fitting tour and a new website, The Shoe Room also partners with the Bata Shoe Museum in producing On Pointe: The Rise of The Ballet Shoe at the Bata Shoe Museum. The newly-named Currie Hall, formerly the Quaker Meeting House, is officially opened with a ceremony attended by Provincial Minister of Culture Aileen Carroll in September, 2008.

From September, 2009 – June, 2010, NBS celebrated its 50th Anniversary. There were numerous festive events held throughout the year, including a dance flash mob at Toronto’s Eaton Centre and an international student choreographic festival.

Alumni from this period include Tina Pereira, Stefan Stewart, John Lam, Jillian Vanstone, Nehemiah Kish, Tanya Howard, Tara Bhavnani, Elena Lobsanova.

Extended History of NBS

Read our in-depth history

Winners of Our 50th Prize Pack!

Congratulations to Joan Moes who won the prize pack with her correct answers of Erik Bruhn, Betty Oliphant & Mikhail Baryshnikov.

A special prize also goes out to Sara Carver for being our youngest contestant with the correct answers.

Thanks to everyone for their participation and bravo to both our winners!

NBS' Archival Display

AI09 Day 1: Orientation

A display of photography & ephemera has been mounted in the Celia Franca Centre.

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© Canadian National Ballet School 2009