Curriculum at NBS has been evolving since the School’s beginnings. Under Betty Oliphant, the Cecchetti tradition formed the basis for training. Recognizing the value of other major schools of thought, however, she began early on to incorporate elements of the French, Russian and Bournonville traditions. This exposure resulted in versatile dancers who easily adapted to the challenges of a variety of choreographic styles.
When Mavis Staines took the helm, re-visiting the curriculum became her priority in order to meet the changing demands of the profession and take advantage of the latest science on conditioning and anatomy became her priority. With the variety of viewpoints represented at NBS, Staines sought to ensure that all ballet faculty members contributed to the creation of the new pedagogic approach. The NBS system of training that resulted represents the best practices of the profession today, but it is not static. It is a living curriculum that continues to evolve.
Betty Oliphant and Cecchetti
As a teenager, Betty Oliphant was introduced to the Cecchetti method of ballet training, a codified system developed by master teacher Enrico Cecchetti primarily for training professional dancers. The system appealed to her because it was logical and its technical demands revealed clearly whether or not its exercises were being properly executed. Oliphant was a highly respected teacher of the system and an examiner for the Cecchetti Branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) when she co-founded NBS. As a result, the School’s original curriculum was deeply rooted in the Cecchetti method.
Mavis Staines and a Revitalized Curriculum
As a graduate of NBS and the Teacher Training Program, as well as a former dancer with The National Ballet of Canada and The Dutch National Ballet, Mavis Staines had a deep understanding of the requirements and constraints on professional dancers by the time she became Artistic Director in 1989. Recognizing the need for adaptation in the face of changes in the profession, she took strides to revitalize the curriculum to meet the contemporary demands of a career in dance. Throughout the curriculum's revision, she recognized the importance of including all ballet faculty members in its creation. Not only does Staines continue to value the perspectives of faculty and other professionals, she also seeks to give students a voice and to engage them in the affairs of the School.