Canadian Ballet Festival

The Canadian Ballet Festival was an annual event staged in Canada from 1948 to 1954 that brought together various Canadian dance companies to generate public interest in classical dance.[1] Prior to the festivals, it was difficult for professional Canadian dancers to earn a living by practising their art in their own country. When the festivals ended in 1954 after six years, Canadian dancers were able to find paid work in Canadian television practising their art.


In 1947, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet formed the Canadian Ballet Festival under the direction of the manager David Yeddeau.[2] The Canadian Ballet Festival Association (CBFA) became the official organizing body. In a statement to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, the Canadian Ballet Festival Association identified the purpose of the festival as being to generate interest in dance in order "to prepare a professional field for Canadian dancers, thus enabling them to earn their livelihood by the practice of their own art in their own country."[3]


The inaugural festival in 1948 in Winnipeg brought together three ballet companies. In addition to the fledgling Winnipeg Ballet, the festival included the Toronto-based Volkoff Canadian Ballet,[4] and a Montreal-based modernist troupe under Ruth Sorel.[5] Kay Armstrong, with the British Columbia School of Dancing planned on performing which would have established her as the only Canadian choreographer with an original ballet. However, when the promised travel subsidy was withdrawn, Armstrong's troupe couldn't afford to participate.[6]

Canadian composers wrote most of the music for the Second Annual festival, held in Toronto in March 1949 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. It featured eleven companies, including Neo Dance Theatre, and 21 ballets were performed, including Cynthia Barrett's, Song of David and Boris Volkoff's Red Ear of Corn. John Jacob Weinzweig wrote the first Canadian score commissioned by the Festival.[7] Samuel Hersenhoren directed the orchestra.[8] Subsequent to the 1949 festival, participating teachers formed the Canadian Dance Teachers' Association in order to unite, communicate and monitor teaching standards.[9]

The Third Annual Festival occurred in November 1950 in Montreal with fifteen Canadian companies and 23 original Canadian ballets.[10] Sydney Johnson and Marcel Valois wrote introductions in the 1950 program.[11] Le Ballet Concert performed Étude and Le Rêve Fantasque.[12] Celia Franca, founder of the National Ballet of Canada, was invited by the CBFA to be a guest.[13]

The Fourth Festival was held in Toronto in 1952.[14] The Fifth Festival occurred in the spring of 1953 at the Little Theatre in Ottawa.[3] The British Columbia Ballet Company performed Leonard Gibson's Gershwin Preludes.[15] By 1954, when the Festivals were over, Canadian dancers were able to find paid work in television through the National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Bowring, Amy (2002). Valaskakis Tembeck, Iro (ed.). "Setting the Stage for Professionalization: The Canadian Ballet Festival (1948-1954)". Estivale 2000 Canadian Dance Bodies Then and Now/Les corps dansants d'hier à aujourd'hui au Canada. Toronto: Dance Collection Danse Press. Archived from the original on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  2. ^ "Gweneth Lloyd". Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Changes". Dance Collection Danse. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  4. ^ "Boris Volkoff". 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  5. ^ Wyman, Max. "Introduction". Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  6. ^ Griffin, Kevin (2008). "Encore". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  7. ^ Keillor, Elaine. "Weinzweig, John Jacob". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Foundation. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  8. ^ Morey, Carl. "Red Ear of Corn". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Foundation. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  9. ^ "1940s, Dance with a Regional Focus - Marion & Richard Errington:". Archived from the original on 6 January 2006. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  10. ^ "Ballet". Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  11. ^ "CANADIAN BALLET FESTIVAL, Montreal 1950". Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  12. ^ "Kay Armstrong". Dance Collection Danse. Archived from the original on 17 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-14.
  13. ^ Martin, Sandra (20 February 2007). "National Ballet founder dies at 85". Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  14. ^ "Ivings". Dance Collection Danse. Archived from the original on 28 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-14.
  15. ^ "Leonard Gibson". Retrieved 14 June 2008.