An Extraordinary Legacy: Supporting The National Ballet of Canada’s Success
by John Hart
November 15, 2021


Celia Franca. Photo by Ken Bell.

“This is an important occasion for us, and a historical event too, since it is the first season of the Canadian National Ballet Company. The interest you have already shown has been most encouraging. Our dancers feel their responsibility to you, and join with me in hoping you will be as pleased with our presentations as we have been inspired by your support.”
Celia Franca, Founder of The National Ballet of Canada, 1951

In February of 1951, English dancer Celia Franca arrived in Canada,  recruited by three volunteers – Sydney Mulqueen, Pearl Whitehead and Aileen Woods – who envisioned a national ballet company for this country. In only ten months, Celia hired dancers and musicians, rehearsed a selection of works and prepared for opening night at Eaton Auditorium on November 12, 1951. The long-cherished dream of forming the company became a reality.

In many ways, 1951 was a different era, as this programme from the inaugural season demonstrates. Yet the mission and vision for the founding of the company remains true for The National Ballet of Canada today – to inspire audiences with the joy and beauty of ballet, to maintain standards of the highest international excellence and to express gratitude for the generosity of donors and volunteers who help turn dreams into reality.


“It is the purpose of the Board to continue to develop, over a period of time, not only Canadian dancers, but Canadian choreographers, designers and composers, all of whom will form a company of distinction able to contribute greatly to the cultural life of the country.”
National Ballet programme, 1951

The passion, determination and resilience of the company’s early supporters helped the National Ballet grow from a fledging enterprise to a Canadian treasure. By offering time, talent and gifts, donors and volunteers have been critical to the National Ballet’s continual development. In the early days, Ballet Guilds fundraised to support the company and volunteers billeted dancers while the company was on tour. In subsequent decades, donors mortgaged their homes to help pay for new productions and assisted the National Ballet as it launched international tours. Dedicated volunteers continued to fundraise through the creation of the Paper Things store and Ballet Boutique. The sustained passion and commitment of many generous donors and volunteers continues to inspire the artists of the National Ballet today.

To mark the company’s 70th anniversary, The National Ballet of Canada has launched the 70 for 70 Legacy Challenge campaign with a goal of securing 70 new legacy donors by June 30, 2022. Through the generosity and foresight of making a legacy gift (a planned gift in your Will, for example), you will have an enormous impact on the company, ensuring future generations will be able to enjoy and celebrate The National Ballet of Canada for years to come.

Learn more about the 70 for 70 Legacy Campaign or Making a Gift in Your Will.

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