Born in Dalian, China, former Principal Dancer Xiao Nan Yu danced with The National Ballet of Canada for 22 years before retiring from the stage in 2019. In 2021, Nan joined the company’s Artistic Staff, accepting the position of Artistic Coach. In her new role, Nan will help train and prepare today’s dancers for the stage mentally and physically, giving them invaluable insight that she has garnered from her career and a unique opportunity to learn with her. Prior to this appointment, Nan served as Ballet Mistress and Assistant to the Choreographer for the world premiere of Orpheus Alive by Choreographic Associate Robert Binet in 2020 and from 2019 to 2021, she was a Guest Teacher for the senior students of Canada’s National Ballet School and remains a frequent visitor.
Nan trained at the Shenyang School of Dance and the Beijing Dance Academy in China before receiving a scholarship for and attending Canada’s National Ballet School. She danced with the National Ballet from 1996 to 2019, becoming Principal Dancer in 2001. Her radiant, standout performances as Odette in Swan Lake, the title role in Giselle, Paulina in The Winter’s Tale, Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Tatiana in Onegin, among other leading roles, made her an audience favourite. She also performed many works by George Balanchine and created new roles in ballets by James Kudelka, Aszure Barton, Matjash Mrozewski, Jean-Pierre Perreault and Dominique Dumais. In addition, Nan has also worked with many world-renowned choreographers.
Nan is the recipient of numerous awards and honours, having won the Gold Medal at the Taoli Cup Ballet Competition in China, Silver Medal at the All Japan International Ballet Competition, Rolex Dancers First Award and Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto’s 21st Century Youth of the Year Award. She also won the Outstanding Profile – Arts and Best of the Best Awards at the Mandarin Profile Awards in Toronto.
Read a Q&A With Nan
Born: Dalian, China
Trained: Shen Yang School of Dance and the Beijing Dance Academy in China and Canada’s National Ballet School
Principal Dancer since: 2001
“Principal Dancer Xiao Nan Yu triumphed yet again with a heart-wrenchingly powerful portrayal of the lovelorn Tatiana that drew a deafening ovation from an enthusiastic Four Seasons Centre audience.”
— Toronto Star
“The enormously gifted Xiao Nan Yu glistens like a white and later black diamond in the dual role of Odette/Odile. There’s an intensely emotional, haunting quality to her Odette and she dances with the maturity of a seasoned artist, displaying silky-smooth control throughout.”
— National Post
The Winter's Tale
“Serenely bringing order out of chaos is Xiao Nan Yu’s Paulina, Hermione’s faithful friend and constant defender. Yu’s projection of stoic nobility and moral uprightness is deeply moving”
— Toronto Star