The Tutu Project

The Tutu Project


Odile, old

Odile from Swan Lake - First Performed January 19, 1955. Designed by Kay Ambrose. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.

This important role has been performed by many leading National Ballet dancers, including Lois Smith, Irene Apiné and Angela Leigh, who were influential in the formative years of the company. The dual character of Odette/Odile, considered the test of a ‘true ballerina’, has always been considered one of the most psychologically and technically arduous roles in the classical ballet canon. Originally a black tutu with the sequined and gold details pictured here, the base of the bodice and skirt have faded to variegated shades of blue and purple after years of wearing, cleaning and aging. 

The National Ballet of Canada premiered its first four-act Swan Lake in 1955, with choreography after the original Russian masters Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov and featuring designs by Kay Ambrose. Unlike later National Ballet versions of Swan Lake, the production culminated in a happy ending and featured sets and costumes that emphasized the fairytale nature of the story. The ballet was not only the company’s first full-length Swan Lake but it was also the first full-length version to be presented in Canada. At the time only a few established European companies held a full-length version of the masterwork in their repertoire so it was a mark of what founding Artistic Director Celia Franca envisioned for the company that this production was undertaken so soon after its formation.

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