August 5, 1918|
|Died||July 12, 2004
St. Catharines, Ontario
|Known for||Co-founder of the National Ballet School of Canada|
|Awards||Order of Canada
Order of Ontario
Born in London, she suffered from pneumonia as a child and her doctor prescribed ballet lessons to help with her breathing. She studied with Tamara Karsavina, Laurent Novikoff and Marie Rambert. By the age of 17, she had opened her own school.
She moved to Canada in 1947. In 1951, she became ballet mistress for the National Ballet of Canada at the request of Celia Franca, the company's director. She and Franca founded the National Ballet School of Canada in 1959. Alumni include Frank Augustyn, Rex Harrington, Karen Kain, James Kudelka and Veronica Tennant. Her training was based on the Cecchetti method of classical dance.
In 1959, she became associate artistic director for the National Ballet of Canada, but resigned in 1975 to devote herself to the school. She retired in 1989.
She was known for her strict manner, high standards and insistence on technique; she was a strong voice for the support of the arts in Canada.
She was awarded the Order of Canada in 1973. In 1988, the National Ballet School of Canada named its new performance space the Betty Oliphant Theatre. In 1996, she published an autobiography Miss O: My Life in Dance (ISBN 0-88801-210-1).
She died in St. Catharines, Ontario at the age of 85.