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Lois Smith was a charter member of the National Ballet of Canada in 1951 and became known as the country's first “prima ballerina” by 1955. Born in Vancouver, she began her performing career in the late 1940s in musical theatre, dancing in productions by Vancouver's Theatre Under the Stars and the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.
As a dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, Smith was noted for her nuanced interpretations of the classical and contemporary repertoire. She danced many leading roles in works including Giselle and Swan Lake, as well as in more dramatic work such as The House of Atreus (1964) by Grant Strate. She was especially known for her performances in the Antony Tudor ballets Offenbach in the Underworld (1954), Dark Elegies (1937) and Lilac Garden (1936).
When a tendon injury forced Smith to retire from performing in 1969, she turned to teaching. After starting her own school, the Lois Smith School of Dance, she also served as the head of the dance department at George Brown College in Toronto. Smith has also received commissions for her choreography from the Canadian Opera Company and the Winnipeg Opera Company.
Smith is the recipient of many awards, including the Centennial Medal in 1967 and the International Women's Day Medal in 1977. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980.
Neufeld, James. Power to Rise: The Story of the National Ballet of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.