A streetcar and traffic passes in front of a large poster for The Sleeping Beauty ballet in Toronto

The Culture Lover's Guide to Ballet in Toronto

A streetcar and traffic passes in front of a large poster for The Sleeping Beauty ballet in Toronto

Toronto offers various interpretations of classic, contemporary and new stories through ballet that will mesmerize you with the power, strength and beauty of the human form.

Find the best ballet in Toronto

The National Ballet of Canada

Canada’s famous and largest dance company was founded in 1951 by dancer and choreographer Celia Franca. The National Ballet of Canada has been going strong with a diverse and beautiful repertoire of both classic and contemporary works, as well as original commissioned performances. Based in Toronto, the National Ballet of Canada consists of an orchestra and over 70 dancers that tour throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The ballet season is spring, fall and winter.

In Toronto, the National Ballet of Canada performs at the Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts, a venue shared with the Canadian Opera Company (COC). Located at 145 Queen Street East, the Four Seasons Centre was designed specifically for opera and ballet performances, so even though it seats over 2000, it has retained an intimate ambiance.

The Nutcracker is a popular annual tradition during the holiday season, with many local celebrities invited for cameo walk-on roles as the Cannon Doll. These include author Margaret Atwood, TV personality Rick Mercer and broadcaster Ron MacLean.

Canada’s Ballet Jörgen (CBJ)

Canada’s Ballet Jörgen has been showcasing stunning ballet performances since 1987. The award-winning company tours annually across Canada with a commitment to make ballet accessible to all communities. Many shows are performed in Toronto, the home of the company and CBJ is involved in several development programs for artists and dancers.

CBJ’s repertoire includes classics like Anastasia, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, the Nutcracker and Cinderella. Don’t miss the innovative retelling of the beloved story of Anne of Green Gables or the comedic Coppélia. CBJ also performs one-act productions and short ballets such as Bouffonia and the Velveteen Rabbit. Even more short productions have been commissioned with a young audience in mind.

Opera Atelier

If you enjoy opera as well, you’ll love the seamless fusion of opera and ballet in Opera Atelier performances. The programs are presented twice a year in Toronto, so check their schedule for their next performance. The company was founded by ballet dancers Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg in 1985. Accompanied by the distinct sounds of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Opera Atelier embodies the baroque era when opera and ballet were intertwined. Complete with elegant and visually stunning costume and set design, Opera Atelier performances also feature modern touches in sound and lighting. Soprano Measha Brueggergosman is Opera Atelier’s Artist in Residence until 2023 and no doubt her passion and talent will help Opera Atelier reach an even wider audience.

Tips for first time balletgoers

  • Selecting the right show is important, so we recommend that you start with something familiar, like the well-known stories of Sleeping Beauty or Romeo and Juliet. When watching the ballet version of these productions, pay attention to the interpretation of the story through movement and music. Once you see another perspective of something familiar it may pique your curiosity to see other productions.
  • Ballet performances are offered as a full program or a mix repertory. The full program lasts up to two hours with an intermission, while a mix repertory is a collection of short ballets presented with different dance styles. If you want a flavour of ballet, you may want to watch the mix repertories. These are also great opportunities to introduce kids and younger fans to this beautiful performance art.
  • You’ll want to wear something formal for an opening gala of the ballet season, however in general you’re not required to don a formal tuxedo or ballgown when attending the ballet.
  • Employ the same basic etiquette at the ballet as you would at the theatre. If in doubt when to clap, follow the cues of other patrons during a performance. Arrive early to avoid interrupting those already in attendance and always keep your screens and devices dark and silent during a performance.

Last updated: January 31, 2024

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