July 16, 2004 by

Betty Oliphant

2 comments

Categories: Artists

boliphant.jpgDance icon Betty Oliphant, a founder of Canada’s National Ballet School, died on July 12. Cause of death was not released. She was 85.
Born in England, Oliphant studied classical ballet with Russian dance tutors Tamara Karsavina and Laurent Novikoff. Too tall to perform on the world stage, she decided to teach instead. At 21, Oliphant immigrated to Canada and established her own ballet school. She became the ballet mistress of the newly formed National Ballet of Canada in 1951.
Oliphant joined forces with Celia Franca, the founder of the National Ballet, to launch the National Ballet School in 1959. There “Miss O” taught thousands of dancers how to master their technique and achieve artistic freedom. Several of her students — Frank Augustyn, Karen Kain, Veronica Tennant — became distinguished dancers with the company. She retired in 1989.
Oliphant was one of the first women to be awarded the Order of Napoleon. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1973 and promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada 12 years later. In 1988, the National Ballet School named its new theatre in her honor. Oliphant published her memoirs, “Miss O: My Life in Dance,” in 1997.

2 Responses to Betty Oliphant

  1. Alex Ursuliak

    I had the honour to be one of Betty’s staff members during the days of only 111 Maitland. There was little space but a lot of love, dedication and with the support of Betty we all managed to get some good dancers on stage. In spite of a different teaching method Betty gave me every opportunity to apply what I knew and it gave me a good basis for the rest of my teaching career. We owe her a lot and will miss her.

  2. Donna Fowler

    I never met Betty but my mother wanted me to be a ballerina and she made sure that I took lessons from the best. I took ballet and tap in Toronto from the years of 1950-1954. It was memories that I will never forget. Thank you, Betty. God be with you.

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