The National Ballet of Canada mourns the passing of former dancer and Senior Ballet Mistress Joanne Nisbet. In her over 40-year career, Ms. Nisbet was instrumental to the success of the National Ballet and will be deeply missed by many.
Ms. Nisbet joined the National Ballet in 1959 upon an invitation from Founding Artistic Director Celia Franca. She was named Ballet Mistress in 1963 and Senior Ballet Mistress in 1983. Ms. Nisbet retired in 1988 but continued to be a Guest Ballet Mistress until 2003.
She began her study of ballet in Calcutta where her teachers included former members of the Markova-Dolin and Diaghilev Ballets. When she was 13, Ms. Nisbet moved to London, England where she took classes with the illustrious Dame Marie Rambert and also with Ana Ivanova upon whose advice, she went to Paris to study with former Maryinsky Theatre and Diaghlilev ballerinas Mathilde Kschessinskaya, Olga Preobrajenska and Lubov Egorova.
In 1949, Ms. Nisbet joined the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet, The Royal Ballet’s “second company” formed in 1946, as a showcase for younger dancers and new choreographers including Celia Franca, John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan. In addition to being in the first production of Pineapple Poll, Ms. Nisbet also danced in other Cranko ballets such as Harlequin in April, Pastorale and The Lady and the Fool.
After five years with Sadler’s Wells, which included their first North American tour, Ms. Nisbet left the company to cross the Atlantic again with two Royal Ballet stars, Moira Shearer and Robert Helpmann, in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Upon her return to England, Ms. Nisbet joined the London Festival Ballet, where she danced from 1954 to 1958. After marrying fellow dancer, David Scott, Ms. Nisbet and her husband left Festival Ballet to work in television and then go to Australia, but before their departure Celia Franca offered them both jobs at The National Ballet of Canada and so began Ms. Nisbet’s 40-year career with the company.