Walter_hero Photo Credits

Walter Carsen. Photo by David Cooper.

Walter Carsen, O.C.

Walter Carsen passed away peacefully in his 100th year on Monday, October 8, 2012.

Walter Carsen was known as the man who made dreams possible. For the National Ballet, Walter made possible many dreams: twelve new productions, an international tour, inspirational fundraising campaigns and a new home for the company.

"Walter helped us achieve what we wanted to do," said Artistic Director Karen Kain. "He was an inspiration through his generosity, leadership and great enthusiasm and he was also a great friend to the company. He will be deeply missed."

Mr. Carsen was always known for his affection for the dancers and much of his generosity stemmed from and was directed to supporting generations of the National Ballet’s talented artists. His dedication to new productions, for example, helped the National Ballet expand its repertoire and provided new roles for his beloved dancers to perform.

Mr. Carsen’s first major gift to the National Ballet funded the acquisition of John Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew in 1992. At the time, it was the largest gift from an individual that the National Ballet had ever received, and the first time an individual had totally funded a new production. In the ensuing 20 years, Mr. Carsen wholly or in part supported eleven more new productions, including classics like Romeo and Juliet and The Firebird.

At first, Mr. Carsen was shy of publicity, making contributions, in his words, because "this company has given me so much joy both on stage and off." In more recent years, however, Mr. Carsen was more vocal about his reasons for supporting the arts, trying to bring to light the needs of arts companies and the role that individuals can play. He also sought to inspire other donors by initiating matching donations: the "Inspired by Walter" campaign in 2000, the Walter Carsen Next Stage Matching Appeal in 2005 and new production matches in 2006/07 and 2009/10.

Most prominently, Mr. Carsen made the leading contribution to the Bold Steps Campaign that funded the creation of the National Ballet’s new home. In recognition of his extraordinary gift, the National Ballet named the building in his honour: The Walter Carsen Centre for The National Ballet of Canada.

Walter leaves behind his two devoted children, his daughter Johanni and son Robert.

Walter Carsen Media Release > 

Full biography of  Walter Carsen > 

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Donations made in Mr. Carsen's memory will be directed to The Walter Carsen New Creations Fund within The National Ballet of Canada Endowment Foundation. Please call Lucy White at 416 345 9686 ext. 333 to donate.

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    Walter Carsen with scenic painter George Schloegl and designer Susan Benson looking at designs for The Taming of the Shrew (1991).
    Photo by Todd Buttenham


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    Walter Carsen with the lead dancers of the National Ballet premiere performances of The Taming of the Shrew: Pierre Quinn, Martine Lamy, Gizella Witkowsky (sitting), Sarah Green, Rex Harrington, Serge Lavoie and Karen Kain, 1992. 

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     Former Artist Director Reid Anderson, Walter Carsen, Serge Lavoie and Karen Kain at the opening night reception for The Taming of the Shrew (1992).
    Photo by BDS Studios

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     Betty Oliphant and Walter Carsen at the opening of the Betty Oliphant Theatre (1994).

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     Walter Carsen and Founder Celia Franca (1994).

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     Robert Tewsley, Margaret Illmann and Walter Carsen at the opening night reception for Romeo and Juliet (1995).

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    Walter Carsen, Karen Kain and Bold Steps Chair Donald Johnson at the Walter Carsen Centre announcement, 1995. 

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     Walter Carsen and former Artistic Director Reid Anderson at The Walter Carsen Centre, during the construction (1995).
    Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

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     Walter Carsen with the casts of Romeo and Juliet: Robert Tewsley, Jennifer Fournier and Margaret Illmann (1995).
    Photo by Andrew Oxenham

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     Walter Carsen and Karen Kain at the opening of The Walter Carsen Centre (1996).
    Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

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     Martine Lamy having the first dance with Walter Carsen at the opening of The Walter Carsen Centre (September 16, 1996)

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     Former Board Chair Jim Pitblado, former Artistic Director James Kudelka and Walter Carsen at the opening night reception for the New York tour at City Center (1998).
    Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

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     Walter Carsen, Rex Harrington, Greta Hodgkinson, William Marrié and Aleksandar Antonijevic at the opening night reception for The Firebird (2000).

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     Walter Carsen with Artists of the Ballet (2003)

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     Walter Carsen and Karen Kain (2003).
    Photo by Bruce Zinger

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    Walter Carsen and Karen Kain after a performance of Romeo and Juliet (April 29, 2006) 

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     Walter Carsen and Principal Dancers Greta Hodgkinson and Guillaume Côté (2007).

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    Walter Carsen with special guest Mikhail Baryshnikov at dinner honouring Mr. Carsen (2008) 

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    Karen Kain and Walter Carsen with the cast of In The Upper Room following a rehearsal at the Walter Carsen Centre, 2008 

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     Walter Carsen with the National Ballet dancers at his 100th birthday celebration on August 14, 2012.