The Tutu Project

The Tutu Project


Italian Ballerina

Italian Ballerina from Gala Performance – First Performed November 18, 1953. Designed by Kay Ambrose. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.

This tutu was worn by Lois Smith, Canada’s first Prima Ballerina, who danced 17 seasons with the company and became its first star, performing nearly all the lead roles in the National Ballet’s repertoire. Anthony Tudor’s Gala Performance is a one-act parody of traditional ballet conventions showcasing the preparations for a gala and the performance itself at which three rival ballerinas compete for the audience’s approval. The production is more of an amusing theatrical piece rather than a truly balletic production and the costumes designed by Kay Ambrose after the original 1938 English version emphasize the parody with their over-the-top designs and grand decorations.

In 1954, Gala Performance was the first National Ballet of Canada production to be filmed by the CBC alongside the Pas de Trois from Swan Lake. This historic event marked a long relationship between the National Ballet and the CBC.  Televised performances allowed a wider audience exposure to ballet while the young company was establishing itself as a national institution in a geographically vast country.

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Top image credit: The National Ballet of Canada tutus on display. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.