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Celebrating 60 Glorious Years of The National Ballet of Canada

For the 2011/12 season in celebration of the 60th Anniversary, a historical display entitled Celebrating 60 Glorious Years of The National Ballet of Canada was created to highlight the artistry and dedication of the individuals who create the evocative performances which continue to inspire audiences today. The display was sponsored by the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and THE VOLUNTEER COMMITTEE, THE NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA.

The exhibit travelled across the country, joining the company on tour to Western Canada in the fall, as well as being featured in community venues across the City of Toronto including the Toronto Reference Library, Canada’s National Ballet School, the Hilton Toronto, the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, the National Film Board Médiathèque, TIFF Kids International Film Festival and at the National Ballet's Gretchen Ross Production Centre as a part of Doors Open Toronto.

The display was also the focal feature of The National Ballet of Canada week launched on November 14, 2011 by Mayor Rob Ford at Toronto City Hall for the opening week of the 2011/12 season.

Introduction 
Creating Dances 
See the Music, Hear the Dance 
Telling a Story Without Words 
A Holiday Tradition on Stage 
The Dancer 

Introduction 

The National Ballet has a rich past fueled by an incredible amount of hard work and planning. Three Toronto volunteer organizers, Sydney Mulqueen, Pearl Whitehead and Aileen Woods, dreamed of building a Canadian ballet company and sought someone with enough resourcefulness for the task. They found that talent in budding choreographer and visionary Celia Franca, who formed The National Ballet of Canada as a classical company in 1951. Humble beginnings and financial struggles soon gave way to success.

Demand quickly surpassed the capacity of Toronto’s Eaton Auditorium and performances were moved to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1953 and then to the newly-opened O’Keefe Centre in 1964. In 2006 the company moved to its current performance location, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, which is the first purpose-built theatre for ballet and opera in Canada.

The National Ballet of Canada embodies a lasting commitment to the passionate artistry that has kept the company vibrant for sixty years. Today, the National Ballet is the only Canadian company to present traditional full-length classics in addition to contemporary ballets and has toured the world extensively, earning an international reputation for excellence. Under the artistic direction of Karen Kain, the National Ballet is thriving and looking forward to many more years of exceptional dance.

 “It is my dream that The National Ballet of Canada endures forever and ever.” Celia Franca, Founder

  • Celia Franca, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell. copy 2
    Celia Franca, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell. copy 2 

    Celia Franca, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell.

  • The National Ballet of Canada's first programme, 1951. copy 2
    The National Ballet of Canada's first programme, 1951. copy 2 

    The National Ballet of Canada's first programme, 1951.

  • Judie Colpman and Lillian Jarvis backstage before a performance of Les Sylphides, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell.
    Judie Colpman and Lillian Jarvis backstage before a performance of Les Sylphides, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell.

    Judie Colpman and Lilian Jarvis backstage before a performance of Les Sylphides, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell.

  • Penelope Winter and Joanne Nisbet greeting fans backstage following a performance of Princess Aurora, 1950’s.
    Penelope Winter and Joanne Nisbet greeting fans backstage following a performance of Princess Aurora, 1950’s.

    Penelope Winter and Joanne Nisbet greeting fans backstage following a performance of Princess Aurora, 1950’s.

  • Betty Pope, Lilian Jarvis, Angela Leigh and Lois Smith, 1957.
    Betty Pope, Lilian Jarvis, Angela Leigh and Lois Smith, 1957.

    Betty Pope, Lilian Jarvis, Angela Leigh and Lois Smith backstage, 1957.

  • David Adams, George Crum and Lois Smith at the Hamilton train station, 1956.
    David Adams, George Crum and Lois Smith at the Hamilton train station, 1956.

    David Adams, George Crum and Lois Smith at the Hamilton train station, 1956.

  • Oldyna Dynowska in rehearsal on tour, 1950’s. Photo by Basil Zarov.
    Oldyna Dynowska in rehearsal on tour, 1950’s. Photo by Basil Zarov.

    Oldyna Dynowska in rehearsal on tour, 1950’s. Photo by Basil Zarov.

  • Lois Smith, Celia Franca, and David Adams at a costume fitting for Gala Performance, 1953. Photo by Ken Bell.
    Lois Smith, Celia Franca, and David Adams at a costume fitting for Gala Performance, 1953. Photo by Ken Bell.

    Lois Smith, Celia Franca, and David Adams at a costume fitting for Gala Performance, 1953. Photo by Ken Bell.

  • Artists of the Ballet in Les Sylphides, 1955. Photo by Ken Bell.
    Artists of the Ballet in Les Sylphides, 1955. Photo by Ken Bell.

    Artists of the Ballet in Les Sylphides, 1955. Photo by Ken Bell.

  • Jury Gotshalks in rehearsal for Polovetsian Dances for Prince Igor, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell.
    Jury Gotshalks in rehearsal for Polovetsian Dances for Prince Igor, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell.

    Jury Gotshalks in rehearsal for Polovetsian Dances for Prince Igor, 1952. Photo by Ken Bell.

 

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Creating Dances

Choreography translates stories and ideas into form and motion. Finding inspiration from music, emotion and imagination, a choreographer brings dance to life by guiding dancers to interpret roles and make them their own.

Celebrated dancer Rudolf Nureyev first set his magnificent version of The Sleeping Beauty on The National Ballet of Canada in 1972. The ballet had been in the company’s repertoire since 1951 but at the time, the new version was the company’s most extravagant and expensive production ever undertaken. 

The Sleeping Beauty was presented across North America, and the company had its New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera House to rave reviews, bringing the National Ballet worldwide attention and firmly positioning it within the international ballet community.  Since that time, Nureyev’s The Sleeping Beauty has become one of the company’s signature productions and continues to be performed to this day alongside a range of full-length classics including Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake. The National Ballet also performs a large number of modern choreographic works, such as Chroma, Emergence and The Seagull.  

“Restaged with passion, precision and great affection by Karen Kain, The Sleeping Beauty remains a brilliant showcase, not just for the romantic pair at the heart of the story, but for an entire company that seems to relish a magnificent opportunity to strut its stuff in the grandest of balletic traditions.” Toronto Sun, 2004

  • Rudolf Nureyev and Veronica Tennant in The Sleeping Beauty, 1979.
    Rudolf Nureyev and Veronica Tennant in The Sleeping Beauty, 1979.

    Rudolf Nureyev and Veronica Tennant in The Sleeping Beauty, 1979.

  • Stacey Shiori Minagawa and Keiichi Hirano in The Sleeping Beauty, 2006. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
    Stacey Shiori Minagawa and Keiichi Hirano in The Sleeping Beauty, 2006. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Stacey Shiori Minagawa and Keiichi Hirano in The Sleeping Beauty, 2006. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

  • Heather Ogden in The Sleeping Beauty, 2009. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Heather Ogden in The Sleeping Beauty, 2009. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Heather Ogden in The Sleeping Beauty, 2009. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • Artists of the Ballet in Emergence, 2010. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Artists of the Ballet in Emergence, 2010. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Artists of the Ballet in Emergence, 2010. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • Bridgett Zehr and Aleksandar Antonijevic in Chroma, 2010. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
    Bridgett Zehr and Aleksandar Antonijevic in Chroma, 2010. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Bridgett Zehr and Aleksandar Antonijevic in Chroma, 2010. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

  • Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1991. Photo by Lydia Pawelak.
    Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1991. Photo by Lydia Pawelak.

    Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1991. Photo by Lydia Pawelak.

  • Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1999. Photo by David Hou.
    Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1999. Photo by David Hou.

    Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1999. Photo by David Hou.

  • Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1960. Photo by Ken Bell.
    Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1960. Photo by Ken Bell.

    Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1960. Photo by Ken Bell.

 

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See the Music, Hear the Dance

Hearing an orchestra live makes all listeners aware of what an extraordinarily integral and thrilling part it plays in the ballet-going experience.

The National Ballet of Canada is one of the few companies to have its own orchestra, which has been in place since its founding in 1951. George Crum, a pioneer of the arts in Canada, became the company’s first Music Director, building the fledgling ballet company into the great institution it is today alongside Founder Celia Franca. Upon his retirement in 1984 he was named Music Director Emeritus in honour of his significant contribution to the development of the National Ballet.

Currently the orchestra has more than 60 members, led by Music Director and Principal Conductor David Briskin. The orchestra remains an essential component of the overall performance, playing beautiful renditions of scores ranging from 19th century masterworks to completely new compositions.

“Canada is to be envied for its National Ballet, not only because of their fantastic dancers, but also because of its orchestra.” Stuttgarter Zeitung, Germany, 2000

  • Members of The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in rehearsal, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Members of The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in rehearsal, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Members of The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in rehearsal, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • George Crum, 1952. Photo by Ballard and Jarrett.
    George Crum, 1952. Photo by Ballard and Jarrett.

    George Crum, 1952. Photo by Ballard and Jarrett.

  • Lilian Jarvis and George Crum, 1950’s.
    Lilian Jarvis and George Crum, 1950’s.

    Lilian Jarvis and George Crum, 1950’s.

  • The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 2006. Photo by Sian Richards.
    The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 2006. Photo by Sian Richards.

    The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 2006. Photo by Sian Richards.

  • Artists of the Ballet performing Romeo and Juliet, 2006.
    Artists of the Ballet performing Romeo and Juliet, 2006.

    Artists of the Ballet performing Romeo and Juliet, 2006.

  • David Briskin with Members of The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in rehearsal, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    David Briskin with Members of The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in rehearsal, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    David Briskin with Members of The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra in rehearsal, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • Artists of the Ballet in rehearsal, 1962.
    Artists of the Ballet in rehearsal, 1962.

    Artists of the Ballet in rehearsal, 1962.

  • David Briskin and Artists of the Ballet rehearsing The Merry Widow, 2007. Photo by Sian Richards.
    David Briskin and Artists of the Ballet rehearsing The Merry Widow, 2007. Photo by Sian Richards.

    David Briskin and Artists of the Ballet rehearsing The Merry Widow, 2007. Photo by Sian Richards.

  • Orsmby Wilkins in the orchestra pit during a performance, 2003. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Orsmby Wilkins in the orchestra pit during a performance, 2003. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Orsmby Wilkins in the orchestra pit during a performance, 2003. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

 

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Telling a Story Without Words

Narrative ballets are frequently inspired by traditional stories or historical events. Choreographers often tell familiar stories using a combination of movement, mime and characters.

One of the oldest full-length ballets, Giselle has long been referred to as the Hamlet of dance due to the dramatic breadth expressed by the ballerina in the title role, ranging from innocence through to madness and otherworldliness. The National Ballet of Canada has been staging Giselle since the founding of the company in 1951 and many great dancers have performed the role of Giselle as their farewell, including Celia Franca, Mary Jago and Chan Hon Goh.

The National Ballet has added story ballets to its repertoire throughout its lengthy history including Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, La Fille mal gardée, Onegin and The Merry Widow, showcasing the depth and range of its artists over generations. Today narrative ballets continue to be beloved by National Ballet audiences, from the enduring favourite The Nutcracker, to newer productions such as An Italian Straw Hat and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“When Giselle’s underlying themes of love, betrayal, forgiveness and redemption are told through the poetry of dance, they take on a power that is almost epic in its ability to stir the emotions.” National Post, 2000

  • Chan Hon Goh with Artists of the Ballet in Giselle, 2009. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
    Chan Hon Goh with Artists of the Ballet in Giselle, 2009. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Chan Hon Goh with Artists of the Ballet in Giselle, 2009. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

  • Lois Smith and Earl Kraul in the CBC Production of Giselle, 1962.
    Lois Smith and Earl Kraul in the CBC Production of Giselle, 1962.

    Lois Smith and Earl Kraul in the CBC Production of Giselle, 1962.

  • Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn in Giselle, 1977.
    Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn in Giselle, 1977.

    Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn in Giselle, 1977.

  • Sonia Rodriguez and Patrick Lavoie in An Italian Straw Hat, 2005. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
    Sonia Rodriguez and Patrick Lavoie in An Italian Straw Hat, 2005. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Sonia Rodriguez and Patrick Lavoie in An Italian Straw Hat, 2005. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

  • Aleksandar Antonijevic and Jillian Vanstone in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 2011. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
    Aleksandar Antonijevic and Jillian Vanstone in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 2011. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Aleksandar Antonijevic and Jillian Vanstone in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 2011. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

  • Xiao Nan Yu and Jirí Jelinek in Onegin, 2010. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic.
    Xiao Nan Yu and Jirí Jelinek in Onegin, 2010. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic.

    Xiao Nan Yu and Jirí Jelinek in Onegin, 2010. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic.

  • Piotr Stanczyk and Martine Lamy in La Fille mal gardée, 2002. Photo by David Hou.
    Piotr Stanczyk and Martine Lamy in La Fille mal gardée, 2002. Photo by David Hou.

    Piotr Stanczyk and Martine Lamy in La Fille mal gardée, 2002. Photo by David Hou.

  • Earl Kraul and Veronica Tennant in the CBC Production of Romeo and Juliet, 1964. Photo by Ken Bell.
    Earl Kraul and Veronica Tennant in the CBC Production of Romeo and Juliet, 1964. Photo by Ken Bell.

    Earl Kraul and Veronica Tennant in the CBC Production of Romeo and Juliet, 1964. Photo by Ken Bell.

  • Lois Smith and David Adams with Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1960. Photo by Ken Bell.
    Lois Smith and David Adams with Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1960. Photo by Ken Bell.

    Lois Smith and David Adams with Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake, 1960. Photo by Ken Bell.

  • Zdenek Konvalina and Sonia Rodriguez in The Seagull, 2008. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
    Zdenek Konvalina and Sonia Rodriguez in The Seagull, 2008. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Zdenek Konvalina and Sonia Rodriguez in The Seagull, 2008. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

 

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A Holiday Tradition on Stage

Although the dancers and choreography are the heart of a ballet, the spectacle of the show is created behind the scenes. Set, costume, lighting and make-up designs create the atmosphere and set the mood for the production on stage.

The Nutcracker is well-known for the lavish costumes, sets and staging that have helped make it a perennial favourite. Since 1952, The Nutcracker has been part of the National Ballet’s repertoire, but in 1964 it was re-staged with new choreography by Celia Franca after Marius Petipa and sets and costumes by Jürgen Rose. At the time, this was the most expensive theatrical production in Canada, costing approximately $100,000. This version charmed audiences with its beautiful design for thirty years.

In 1995, the production was re-staged by James Kudelka featuring a Russian setting and has continued the tradition of annually dazzling audiences with its magnificent visuals. The production cost approximately $2.7 million to create, and to date has earned $41 million in box office revenue.

“TheNutcracker looks fresher than ever and it can still warm hearts and dazzle audiences with its sumptuous design, dynamic dancing and numerous surprises.” The National Post, 2010

  • Piotr Stanczyk and Charles Seminerio backstage at The Nutcracker, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Piotr Stanczyk and Charles Seminerio backstage at The Nutcracker, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Charles Seminerio and Piotr Stanczyk backstage at The Nutcracker, 2007. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • Keiichi Hirano with Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Keiichi Hirano with Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Keiichi Hirano with Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • Barbara Smith with Snowmen in The Nutcracker, 1976. Photo by Barry Gray.
    Barbara Smith with Snowmen in The Nutcracker, 1976. Photo by Barry Gray.

    Barbara Smith with Snowmen in The Nutcracker, 1976. Photo by Barry Gray.

  • Tomas Schramek and Nadia Potts with Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 1975. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.
    Tomas Schramek and Nadia Potts with Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 1975. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.

    Tomas Schramek and Nadia Potts with Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 1975. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.

  • Karen Kain in The Nutcracker, 1970’s. Photo by Barry Gray.
    Karen Kain in The Nutcracker, 1970’s. Photo by Barry Gray.

    Karen Kain in The Nutcracker, 1970’s. Photo by Barry Gray.

  • Santo Loquasto, Angela Arana and Chan Hon Goh making The Nutcracker, 1995. Photo by Bryce Duffy (Toronto Life).
    Santo Loquasto, Angela Arana and Chan Hon Goh making The Nutcracker, 1995. Photo by Bryce Duffy (Toronto Life).

    Santo Loquasto, Angela Arana and Chan Hon Goh making The Nutcracker, 1995. Photo by Bryce Duffy (Toronto Life).

  • Creating the sets for The Nutcracker, 1995. Photo by Bryce Duffy (Toronto Life).
    Creating the sets for The Nutcracker, 1995. Photo by Bryce Duffy (Toronto Life).

    Creating the sets for The Nutcracker, 1995. Photo by Bryce Duffy (Toronto Life).

  • Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 2008. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 2008. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker, 2008. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • Heather Ogden in The Nutcracker, 2009. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Heather Ogden in The Nutcracker, 2009. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Heather Ogden in The Nutcracker, 2009. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

 

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The Dancer

In 1951, when Celia Franca was asked by a group of Toronto volunteers to start a company, she had very little time to find dancers and plan a performance. From this exciting first year, the caliber of performance has continued to escalate, in part due to the increasing international representation within the company. The National Ballet’s dancers first came from across the country and now they come from around the world.

Dance instructors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, orthopedic surgeons and movement specialists work together to maintain dancers’ health, strengthening them against injury. Professional dancers train rigorously so they can perform challenging movements that appear effortless to the audience. They attend company class every day prior to a full day of rehearsals five days a week.

Dancers must be incredibly strong and flexible to perform ballet’s demanding movements. In partner work, both dancers must be aware of their own movements, as well as their partner's body, balance, and timing. Although more complicated, partnering allows dancers to perform an additional range of movements, including lifts, turns, and throws. This combination of dramatic intensity and graceful performance embodies the love many people have for dance and keeps them returning to the theatre over and over again.

“The National Ballet of Canada’s dancers suggest a willingness to explore, and that is the sort of imperative that will keep dance alive.” Ballet Review (UK), 2010

  • Alejandra Perez-Gomez and Lorna Geddes in the Shoe Room, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Alejandra Perez-Gomez and Lorna Geddes in the Shoe Room, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Alejandra Perez-Gomez and Lorna Geddes in the Shoe Room, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • Elena Lobsanova in company class, 2006. Photo by Christopher Wahl.
    Elena Lobsanova in company class, 2006. Photo by Christopher Wahl.

    Elena Lobsanova in company class, 2006. Photo by Christopher Wahl.

  • Artists of the Ballet in company class, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.
    Artists of the Ballet in company class, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

    Artists of the Ballet in company class, 2006. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

  • Erik Bruhn and Yoko Ichino in rehearsal, 1984. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.
    Erik Bruhn and Yoko Ichino in rehearsal, 1984. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.

    Erik Bruhn and Yoko Ichino in rehearsal, 1984. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.

  • Artists of the Ballet in The Four Temperaments, 1993. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
    Artists of the Ballet in The Four Temperaments, 1993. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Artists of the Ballet in The Four Temperaments, 1993. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

  • Artists of the Ballet in class at the City Centre during a tour to New York City. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
    Artists of the Ballet in class at the City Centre during a tour to New York City. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Artists of the Ballet in class at the City Centre during a tour to New York City. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

  • Greta Hodgkinson and Rex Harrington in The Four Seasons, 2004. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.
    Greta Hodgkinson and Rex Harrington in The Four Seasons, 2004. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.

    Rex Harrington and Greta Hodgkinson in The Four Seasons, 2004. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.

  • Roland Petit with Georges Piletta and Mary Jago in rehearsal for Kraanerg, 1969. Photo by Ken Bell.
    Roland Petit with Georges Piletta and Mary Jago in rehearsal for Kraanerg, 1969. Photo by Ken Bell.

    Roland Petit with Georges Piletta and Mary Jago in rehearsal for Kraanerg, 1969. Photo by Ken Bell.

  • Gizella Witkowsky in Don Quixote, 1985. Photo by Barry Gray.
    Gizella Witkowsky in Don Quixote, 1985. Photo by Barry Gray.

    Gizella Witkowsky in Don Quixote, 1985. Photo by Barry Gray.

  • Paul Papoutsakis with Xiao Nan Yu in physiotherapy, 2009.
    Paul Papoutsakis with Xiao Nan Yu in physiotherapy, 2009.

    Paul Papoutsakis with Xiao Nan Yu in physiotherapy, 2009.

 

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