Sunday, October 28, 2007

Miss O - by Betty Oliphant - Book Review

Miss O, My Life In Dance
By Betty Oliphant
Turnstone Press 1996

I stayed up until 2 am reading this book. I LOVE Ballet, and this is the story of Betty Oliphant who helped to start Canada's National Ballet Company in Toronto, and she also started the National Ballet School. I read this book for the Canadian Challenge.

Betty Oliphant was born in England in 1918. She started Ballet lessons at age 5, and continued with Ballet up until her teenage years. Thats when she started teaching Ballet. She did not have the easiest life growing up. Betty's father died within weeks of her birth, so her mother was a single mother raising 2 children (Betty had one older sister Mary)in post World War society. In 1942, (during WW2) Betty married a Canadian and gave birth to two daughters - Gail and Carol. After the war, the whole family emigrated to Canada where Betty tried to start her own Ballet school. After 3 years her school was integrated into the newly formed National Ballet of Canada. Betty was the BAllet Mistress at the Company for eight years, and later became the Artistic Director. In 1959, Betty found the National Ballet School and was the Principal of the School from the start until her retirement in 1991.

Betty did not have an easy life. She suffered through with 2 bad marriages, her second husband sexually abused her daughters. Eventually Betty had to have psychiatric treatment. She was very open about her mental attitude. And she was not shy about stating her views on such famous ballet stars such as Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Karen Kain. Betty died in 2004.

If you like Ballet, you will love this biography, learning all the unknown stories about how the school and the company work.


Jenny from Chicago said...

This book sounds a little dark for me...was there an uplifting element to it?

Historia said...

Oh yes, I forgot to mention how proud Betty was whenever one of the Canadians Dancers won an International Ballet competition. And how fulfilled she was when ballet companies around the world started employing "her" dancers because they had excellent training. Betty retired with the feeling that she had proved to herself and to the world that she was worth something. It was not all dark, and I'm sorry if I came across that way.