Celia Franca was the first artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada and was an important
influence on the development of ballet in Canada. She became a member of Ballet Rambert in her native England in
1936. During the 1940s, she performed with the Sadler's Wells Ballet (later renamed the Royal Ballet). She later
danced with the Metropolitan Ballet and received the British Broadcasting Corporation's first two commissions for
In 1950, Ninette de Valois, the founder of the Sadler's Wells Ballet (first named the Vic-Wells Ballet and later
renamed the Royal Ballet), recommended Franca to a group of Canadians who wanted to start a company in Toronto.
The following year, the National Ballet of Canada gave its first public performance under Franca's direction.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Franca strengthened the company's international reputation by inviting international
stars such as Erik Bruhn and Rudolf Nureyev to stage full-length classical works. She officially stepped down as
Artistic director in 1974.
Among her many awards, in 1967 Franca became the first dance artist inducted into the Order of Canada. In 1985,
she received the highest honour, Companion of the Order. In 2002, she was invited to stage Antony Tudor's Judgment
of Paris for the National Ballet of Canada. In 1978, she became co-artistic director (with Merrilee Hodgins) of
the School of Dance in Ottawa.