Canada's National Ballet School

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Canada's National Ballet School
400 Jarvis Street

, ,
M4Y 2G6

Coordinates43°39′50″N 79°22′40″W / 43.66389°N 79.37778°W / 43.66389; -79.37778Coordinates: 43°39′50″N 79°22′40″W / 43.66389°N 79.37778°W / 43.66389; -79.37778
School typePrivate ballet school and boarding school for academics
Established1959 (1959)
FoundersCelia Franca
Betty Oliphant
Artistic DirectorMavis Staines
Executive DirectorCathryn Gregor

Canada's National Ballet School, also commonly known as the National Ballet School of Canada, is a classical ballet school located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Along with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, it is a provider of professional ballet training in Canada. The school, housed in four main buildings, is associated with the National Ballet of Canada, and many graduates go on to dance in professional ballet companies.[citation needed] Mavis Staines has been the Artistic Director of the school since 1989.



The National Ballet of Canada was formed in 1951 by the English ballet dancer Celia Franca, who had previously been a dancer with ballet companies in the United Kingdom. Franca immigrated to Canada in 1951 and founded the National Ballet of Canada that same year,[1] also hiring the English ballet teacher Betty Oliphant to work with the company.

As the National Ballet became established, Franca and Oliphant decided to create a ballet academy to train dancers for the company.[2] The school, modeled after Britain's Royal Ballet School, opened in 1959 in a former Quaker meeting house at 111 Maitland Street in Toronto, a building purchased for the school by the National Ballet Guild at a cost of $80,000.[3]

Oliphant became the school's first Artistic Director.[4] The first enrolment of full-time students included 27 females, and 202 students enrolled for part-time study, of which nine were boys.

Having studied the Cecchetti method under Dame Marie Rambert and Antony Tudor, Oliphant chose the method as the foundation for the school's training programme. The Cecchetti method taught at the school was the original syllabus devised by Enrico Cecchetti in collaboration with the dance writer and historian Cyril Beaumont; this method continues to be used around the world by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing for training and assessing dancers. Students of the school were assessed by examiners from the United Kingdom, to ensure impartiality.

As well as the National Ballet of Canada, the school trained dancers for companies across Canada and around the world. Alumni of the school include Martine van Hamel, Frank Augustyn, Neve Campbell, Anne Ditchburn, Rex Harrington, Karen Kain (current Artistic Director of the Company), James Kudelka (former Artistic Director of the Company), Veronica Tennant, Martine Lamy, John Alleyne, Mavis Staines, and Kevin Pugh. The school also trained professional dance teachers.[citation needed]

In 1983, students at the school were featured in the Academy Award-winning National Film Board of Canada dance film Flamenco at 5:15.[5]


A view of the school on Jarvis Street

In 2000, 400 Jarvis Street, in the Wellesley-Church district, was acquired from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for one dollar.[6] The existing buildings on the site were restored and redesigned by Goldsmith Borgal & Company Ltd. Architects (GBCA). Three new buildings, dubbed Project Grand Jete, were planned and built by GBCA, along with Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB). Construction began in 2003, and in 2005, the school relocated there.

The major expansion to the school was completed in 2007 at a cost of $100 million. 111 Maitland, now known as Currie Hall, became the school's dining hall.


Each year, the school conducts outreach tours in about twenty cities across Canada. Students have come to The National from every province in Canada, as well as from many other countries including the United States, Japan, Korea, and Sweden.

Students are accepted after an audition on the basis of merit, with financial assistance available depending on family means. Students who pass the initial auditions participate in an intensive summer program, and some of these are then accepted and asked to train at the school in the fall. At the end of each academic year, students are evaluated and invited back to continue training the following year if they have shown progress and promise.


The school provides a full-time program which combines classical ballet training with academic education from Grades 6 through 12 at its boarding school, as well as specialized dance training after Grade 12 and a full-time teacher-training program. Since 1959, the school has trained hundreds of professional dance teachers.[citation needed]

The school's training prepares students to dance with The National Ballet of Canada, but also to dance with other major ballet companies in Canada and throughout the world. Alumni of the school can be seen dancing at many companies worldwide, including The Royal Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, (the former) Frankfurt Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Danish Ballet, The Royal Swedish Ballet, The San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet, and The Joffrey Ballet.

In addition to the core Professional Ballet/Academic Program, the school offers a post-secondary advanced dance training program (IDP: Intensive Dance Program, often affiliated with the apprenticeship program with the Company, now known as the PSP, or Post Secondary Program), a Teacher Training Program (TTP), summer school, student and adult recreational classes throughout the year, teachers' seminars, and teacher and pianist workshops as part of its annual national recruitment tour. About 700 students and their families take part in the school's programs each week, and an additional 150 auditionees joining the student body for the annual summer school.

The school originally trained most of its students in the British version of the Cecchetti method called Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing – ISTD, which differs sharply from the less-developed version taught by the Cecchetti Council of America. While Cecchetti has been the root of The National's training, most of the year was not developed to preparing for syllabus exams. Instead, The National developed its own system of training and used the ISTD Cecchetti exams at the end of the year to gage and assess its own students by inviting external ISTD examiners from England to examine its students. In the Upper School at The National, students were exposed to the Vaganova method by Russian and other Soviet teachers. Classical Spanish dance (namely Flamenco), Character dance, and Modern Dance were included into the system of training to make well-rounded and versatile dancers. Students no longer prepare for the ISTD Cecchetti Exams, however those enrolled in the Teacher Training Program may do so, or elect to study Royal Academy of Dance or RAD syllabus, or the Vaganova method.

The school also has an Associates Program for training of other students which is not affiliated with its academic boarding school. They teach Hip Hop, Jazz, and ballet. The current head of the Associates Program is Laurel Toto, a graduate of the Teacher Training Program.

Mavis Staines, the school's Artistic Director, served for many years as Artistic President of the Prix de Lausanne, the international competition for emerging young dancers held yearly in Lausanne, Switzerland.[citation needed]


The Margaret McCain Academic Building was built for and originally housed Havergal Ladies' College from 1898 until 1932, and then housed the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's main radio and television studios in Toronto from 1945 until 1996.[6][7]

Included as part of the school is a heritage building – the 1856 home of Sir Oliver Mowat, the longest-serving Premier of Ontario, a Father of Confederation, and later Ontario's Lieutenant-Governor. The mansion, originally named Norfield House (used by Havergal College from 1913 to 1932, and then by the CBC), was renamed Lozinski House and now houses the school's artistic and administrative offices.[7]

The architectural firms of Goldsmith Borgal & Company Ltd. Architects (GBCA) and Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) integrated the original buildings with three new buildings, using contemporary construction composed of glass, steel, metal panels, and concrete blocks, which appears transparent from the street façade. The three new buildings were completed in 2007: the Celia Franca Centre, a "Bar" building, and a six-storey "North Tower" building, which consists of three large studio spaces, each stacked on top of the other.

The Celia Franca Centre is used for multiple purposes. Twelve dance studios of various sizes, some of which are facing Jarvis Street, function are visible to passersby.[8] The Franca Celia Centre also includes a coffee shop, library/ resource centre, study areas, and seating zones. The Betty Oliphant Theatre has change rooms, dressing rooms and wardrobe all encompassed within the Franca Celia Centre.[9] The Façade of the Celia Franca Centre consists of glazed curtain walls combined with cultured stone tiles tied by steel grate panel sub-structures. The choreography of the opening scene of The Nutcracker is visible in the suspended frit glass of the south pavilion facade in Benesh notation[10]


  1. ^ "The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca, by Carol Bishop-Gwyn". Reviewed by Deirdre Kelly, The Globe and Mail, January 27, 2012
  2. ^ "Goodbye to a great lady". Obituary on the Globe and Mail, July 24, 2004, John Fraser.
  3. ^ "National Ballet founder Celia Franca dies". CBC Arts, Feb 19, 2007
  4. ^ "National Ballet founder dies at 85". Globe and Mail, Sandra Martin, February 19, 2007
  5. ^ Evans, Garry. In the National Interest: A Chronicle of the National Film Board of Canada from 1949 to 1989. University of Toronto Press. p. 281. ISBN 978-0802068330.
  6. ^ a b Egle Procuta. "Ballet school gets former CBC studios". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  7. ^ a b "Canada's National Ballet School - NBS Campus Facilities". Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  8. ^ Sobchak, Peter. "The whole pointe. " Canadian Interiors 1 Jan 2006: 56-61. CBCA Complete, ProQuest. Web. 18 Sep. 2010.
  9. ^ "KPMB Architects". Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  10. ^ Anonymous. "NATIONAL BALLET SCHOOL." The Canadian Architect. 1 May 2008: 44-45. ABI/INFORM Trade & Industry, ProQuest. Web. 18 Sep. 2010.

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