Dancers participate in a ballet class in this historical photo

Our History

Grateful for the Lands We Inhabit

Across cultures and traditions, dance and movement have the power to speak to our shared human experience.

However, throughout Canada’s history, the government legally deprived Indigenous peoples of their music and dance. And, despite brave attempts to keep tradition alive, many cultural expressions were lost forever.


Today, our campus sits upon the traditional territories of many nations, and is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit. We celebrate the descendants and cultures of the first peoples who lived here as a vibrant and integral part of our society today.


We gratefully acknowledge and deeply value the opportunity we have to learn from and cherish the contributions of Indigenous peoples of the past, present and into the future. Read a full land acknowledgement here.

About NBS

We are Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS), where programming excellence, access and inclusion fuel our belief in sharing the transformative power of dance to change lives for the better. 

This is what drives our commitment to making dance a part of all Canadians’ lives—from the Olympic-calibre dancer training for a professional ballet career on the world stage to the young child or older adult who may be embracing the joy of dance for the first time.

A young dancer gives her all during a creative movement class

About NBS

We are Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS), where programming excellence, access and inclusion fuel our belief in sharing the transformative power of dance to change lives for the better. 

This is what drives our commitment to making dance a part of all Canadians’ lives—from the Olympic-calibre dancer training for a professional ballet career on the world stage to the young child or older adult who may be embracing the joy of dance for the first time.


Founding a Ballet School

Canada’s National Ballet School is co-founded by Celia Franca and Betty Oliphant to provide comprehensive training that would contribute to Canada’s emerging ballet scene. Built in 1911 as a Quaker Meeting House, Currie Hall on Maitland Street becomes the school’s original site and remains as such for the next 46 years.


First Audition Tour

We embark on our first cross-country Audition Tour to give young dancers from across the nation the chance to become an NBS student. Oliphant accepts 11 students, including five boys, from the almost 90 who audition. Early graduates of our Professional Ballet Program are recognized for their technical skill and artistic versatility. They quickly find places among the world’s top dance institutions, and raise the profile of NBS and Canada as places that nurture the next generation of talent.


Program to Train Teachers

Although an informal program at the school since 1959, the new Teacher Training Program (TTP) marks a significant moment in our evolution. TTP goes on to develop a global reputation for successfully training teachers, ballet masters, and leaders who contribute to significantly higher standards of teaching wherever they work.


Betty Oliphant Theatre Opens

A 300-seat theatre offering a stage training facility, the Betty Oliphant Theatre allows students to enrich their study of ballet with on-site performance opportunities.


New Leadership

Co-founder Betty Oliphant retires and NBS alumna, former professional dancer, and Associate Artistic Director Mavis Staines takes the helm of the school. As Artistic Director, Mavis ensures emphasis on the physical and emotional well-being of the student, putting NBS at the forefront of dance training internationally. She also expands the School’s curriculum to include modern dance and specialized training in the physiology of dance.


A Cross-Country Listening Tour

In 1991, Mavis and colleagues tour the country to consult with community members about our role as a Canadian institution. The tour affirms the need for us to use our position as a world-renowned organization to make dance more accessible and relevant to all Canadians. By the end of the decade, our Artistic Staff establish local outreach activities to create opportunities for kids in Toronto public schools to experience dance without barriers. It would be the basic blueprint that inspires the development of our Community Dance programs by the mid-2010s.


NBS’ First “Artist-in-Residence”

Renowned modern dancer Peggy Baker becomes our first Artist-in-Residence, bringing more dance styles to our students. In this position, Peggy Baker developed a unique modern dance curriculum that complements the students’ ballet training. The curriculum continues to ensure today that dancers have the versatility needed to thrive in the current environment, where classical ballet companies perform contemporary works that incorporate a wide variety of movement vocabularies. 


Adult Ballet Begins

We introduce evening and weekend Adult Ballet classes in 1996. Led by Robert “Ballet Bob” McCollum, the classes quickly grow into one of our most popular initiatives, bringing grace and strength into the lives of hundreds of adults each term.


The Launch of a Ballet Boutique

The Shoe Room opens on campus as our flagship retail boutique, offering on-site access to the largest selection of pointe shoes in the country and professional pointe shoe fitting expertise.


Not Just Any Body

To commemorate the School’s 40th anniversary in 1999, our staff and a Dutch joint working group coordinate the Not Just Any Body conference to advance health, wellbeing and excellence in dance and dancers. This was a landmark event that, through its discussions of the healthy dancer body, opened up the need to educate dancers to take an active part in ensuring their own mental and physical well-being.


An Evolving Campus

We kick off the new millennium with a bang with a sod-turning ceremony to mark the beginning of Project Grand Jeté. Phase I 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). Phase II is completed in 2007, comprising the refurbishment of our original Maitland Street buildings for expanded residence facilities.


Assemblée Internationale (AI)

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, we convene the first Assemblée Internationale (AI). This event focuses on cross-cultural collaboration, partnership and innovation in the ballet community. Bringing together students, artistic directors and faculty from dance schools around the world for a week of classes, rehearsals, conversations, and performances. The Assemblée Internationale becomes a quadrennial festival until the fourth edition planned for 2020 is interrupted and put on pause due to the global pandemic.


Led by the internationally esteemed dance artist, Sorella Englund, our school sees the establishment of the Drama and Expression program.


NBS Sharing Dance Day

Following a successful flash mob in 2009 (also in celebration of our 50th anniversary), we host our first official Sharing Dance Day at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto. A celebration of the joy and power of dance, this event becomes an annual tradition in cities across Canada. In 2017, NBS Sharing Dance was selected as one of 38 Canada 150 Signature Projects, funded in part through the Canada 150 Fund. This funding gave the momentum to make Sharing Dance Day a national event, and served as the catalyst for sustained national expansion.


Sharing Dance Across Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recognizes the benefits of dance for better health and supports a five-year, multimillion dollar project for the national expansion of our Community Dance programs, making this one of Canada’s first arts-based public health interventions on a national scale. This funding galvanizes our program development, research and evaluation, and multi-sectoral partnerships—empowering hundreds of thousands of Canadians to discover and embrace dance as a means of transforming their lives and enhancing quality of life. View the report here


The Impact of the Global Pandemic

In March 2020, the global pandemic creates unimaginable interruptions and forever challenges and changes the status quo: From shifting to virtual training during lockdown for students in the professional programs, to creating new digital dance activities designed to help people of all ages and abilities experience the joy of dance at home, to reimagining key fundraising events with the unwavering support of donors, to so much more. In these extraordinarily difficult times, we not only endure, we are galvanized to create some of the richest moments in our history.


Ballet’s Racial Reckoning

Access and inclusion have been central to Canada's National Ballet School's mission to empower all Canadians in embracing the transformative power of dance. However, events in the spring and summer of 2020 underscore our responsibility to go further to ensure that equity and inclusion drive our practices, policies and programs. In light of this reckoning, we amplify equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within our strategic plan and priorities so that EDI is embedded within  each decision we make every day. We envision ballet as a vibrant and thriving art form that embraces and reflects the full diversity of Canada and its people, and we commit to leadership in making this vision come true.


The Lozinski Centre for Community Dance

In November, we announce the creation of our new Lozinski Centre for Community Dance, made possible through a generous gift from Joan and Jerry Lozinski—longtime supporters of ballet and the arts in Canada, and especially of NBS. While not a physical space, the creation of this landmark Centre directly fosters and enables further development, evolution and expansion of our Community Dance programs, increasing access to dance for many Canadians who may have never before experienced the transformative impact of dance.


Addressing Racialization in Ballet

In partnership with the Dance Institute of Washington (DIW) and Lauri Fitz-Pegado, we co-host the inaugural joint Canada-U.S. symposium seeking to enrich ballet through a comprehensive and holistic exploration of racial equity, diversity and inclusion in ballet and to increase understanding of history and context. The online symposium, with more than 45 panelists and speakers, engages in meaningful, solutions-oriented discussions based on the understanding that when an art form fails to respect the dignity of others, it fails as an art form.


Block Party Opens Our Doors

We open our doors to the community in a festival-style open house. This first-ever Block Party represents an exciting new chapter in our identity and our relationship with the surrounding community.


Assemblée Internationale 2023 (AI23)

From October 2022 to June 2023, NBS hosted it’s fourth and most important Assemblée Internationale festival to date. Assemblée Internationale 2023 (AI23) centred on anti-Black racism as an opportunity to examine our accountability in advancing equity, create the change needed in our beloved art form and lead by example. On April 30-May 6, AI23 brought together 37 training schools and organizations at NBS for the in-person gathering of the festival. View the official souvenir booklet for more details.