Lois Smith, first principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada, dies at 81

Lois Smith, first principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada, dies at 81

Lois Smith in Swan Lake in 1955 (Image: Ken Bell) 

Lois Smith, the first principal ballerina of the National Ballet of Canada, passed away on Saturday at the age of 81 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s. Born in 1929, Smith is a ballet rarity: she began her intensive training at the age of 15 and was taking lead roles in Vancouver’s Theatre Under the Stars only five years later, in 1949. Smith married fellow Canadian dancer David Adams, and both joined the National Ballet in 1951.

Dubbed “Mr. and Mrs. Ballet” by the media, Adams and Smith danced several classic ballets together, including Antony Tudor’s Lilac Garden, Coppélia and Swan Lake. In 1969, Smith opened her own studio, the Lois Smith Dance School, in Toronto. The school eventually became part of the performing arts program at George Brown College, where Smith also served as the head of the dance department between 1979 and 1988.

Karen Kain, current artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, remembers Smith as a source of inspiration. In a statement, she said:

When I joined the National Ballet in 1969, Lois and her longtime partner David Adams had established a captivating partnership that veteran fans still recall with delight and affection. Lois went on to make substantial contributions in the world of dance as an educator and choreographer. She possessed a beautiful unique talent and will be greatly missed.

Like Kain, Grant State, the National Ballet’s first resident choreographer, was awed by Smith’s natural abilities. He told the Star, “She had a beautiful body, grace, line and poise. She was truly a ballerina from Day 1, a natural; and she loved what she was doing.”

• Principal dancer Lois Smith dies [CBC News]
National Ballet star Lois Smith dies [Toronto Star]