Canada's leading ballet company, it was founded in Toronto in 1951 and modelled on the Sadler's Wells Ballet. Its founder director was Celia Franca, who had been a dancer with the British company and had been recommended to the Canadians by Ninette de Valois. The classics formed its core repertory and continued to do so, from Franca's Nutcracker (1964) to Bruhn's controversial Swan Lake (1966), Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, and Nureyev's Sleeping Beauty (1972), which drew on his memories of the Kirov's staging. However it also put an emphasis on 20th-century choreography, performing ballets by Ashton, Tudor, de Valois, Howard, Cranko, and MacMillan during its early years, later adding works by Balanchine, Bruhn, Petit, Peter Wright, Nureyev, Neumeier, and Tetley. The company visited London for the first time in 1972 and went on to perform internationally. Following Franca's resignation in 1974, the company was led by Alexander Grant (1976–83) from the Royal Ballet, who introduced many Ashton ballets into the repertoire as well as commissioning early ballets from the Canadian choreographer James Kudelka. Grant was succeeded in 1983 by Erik Bruhn, who brought modern dance influences into the company's style and continued to emphasize the creation of new work, including ballets from Tetley. Bruhn's death three years later was a significant blow to the company. Reid Anderson was director between 1989 and 1996 and was succeeded by Kudelka who staged new productions of Nutcracker (1995) and Swan Lake (1999) as well as creating many new works. The former ballerina Karen Kain replaced Kudelka in 2005, and has maintained the company's core policies, updating the repertory with work by Wheeldon, Neumeier, Davide Bombana, and others while encouraging new Canadian choreographers like Dominique Dumais.
Most of the company's dancers are trained at the National Ballet School, founded by Franca and Betty Oliphant in 1959 and it has been home to several outstanding ballerinas, including Veronica Tennant and Kain. From 1964 the company performed in the O'Keefe Centre (now Sony Centre) in Toronto. In 2006 it acquired a new purpose-built theatre in The Four Seasons Centre.
http://www.national.ballet.ca Website for the National Ballet of Canada