The Tutu Project

The Tutu Project



Swanilda from Coppélia - First performed October 22, 1952. Designed by Kay Ambrose. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.

The National Ballet of Canada’s Archives holds only one tutu worn by National Ballet Founder Celia Franca in its costume collection. Franca was the firebrand that turned the fledgling dance troupe into an internationally celebrated company, performing as a Principal Dancer with the company from its inception until her retirement from the stage in 1959, and leading the company as Artistic Director until 1976. Franca choreographed many of the early productions herself based on the versions she had danced with Sadler's Wells Ballet in England prior to her arrival in Canada. Her impeccable memory for footwork saved the company from expensive choreographer’s fees for which there certainly was no budget. Celia Franca was undoubtedly the heart and soul of The National Ballet of Canada for many years.

Set in a small storybook-like Bavarian village, Coppélia was one of The National Ballet of Canada’s most popular productions for over a decade. The character of Swanilda is a mischievous young peasant girl who leads her friends on an adventure through Dr. Coppélius’ toy workshop. While we cannot be certain, this tutu was likely designed by Kay Ambrose, a prolific designer who worked with the company from 1952 to 1962 and designed many of the company’s early productions.

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