Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

-—Gustav Mahler

Mavis Staines

2019 Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award (Dance)

Visionary dance educator Mavis Staines has revolutionized the way we teach and understand classical ballet. Her leadership of Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) over the past 30 years has reshaped the landscape of ballet in Canada and sparked an international conversation about classical training, with a focus on progressive, holistic approaches in such areas as pedagogy, mind–body awareness, creativity, technology in the arts, and community engagement. As a performer, educator and artistic director, she has guided generations of professional dance artists and audiences towards a more thoughtful and informed connection to dance as a dynamic, 21st-century art form.
 
Ms. Staines was born in 1954 in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and received her ballet training at NBS. Upon graduation in 1972, she danced as a first soloist with the National Ballet of Canada and the Dutch National Ballet until an accident cut short her performance career. She subsequently enrolled in NBS’s Teacher Training Program; she joined the NBS artistic faculty in 1982, and was appointed artistic director in 1989.
 
As such, she works to develop ballet education by building on the best of traditional methods while ensuring dancers develop the self-awareness and creativity that are essential to leading fulfilling, balanced careers and lives. She is the driving force behind NBS’s commitment to bring dance to all members of the community. Among the School’s many outreach initiatives is the Sharing Dance program, which offers ballet lessons to children and youth, adults, seniors, and people living with Parkinson’s disease.
 
Ms. Staines is a regular presenter at international dance symposiums and has served in various capacities with such arts organizations as the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and Kala Nidhi Fine Arts of Canada. Her long association with the prestigious Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition includes serving as its artistic president (2002–2008). In 2009, coinciding with NBS’s 50th anniversary, she founded the AssemblĂ©e Internationale quadrennial congress/festival, which brings together ballet students from around the world in a collaborative, non-competitive environment.
 
Mavis Staines is a Member of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.