The Farewell Performance of Xiao Nan Yu, the National Ballet of Canada’s Principal Dancer

Text by J.H. White


Xiao Nan Yu, who grew up in Dalian, China, studied dance at an early age. In 1994, she entered the international ballet competition Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. Mavis Staines — one of the judges and the art director of Canada’s National Ballet School — recognized Ms. Yu’s talent. Staines asked the budding star to come with her to study ballet in Canada.

A year later, at 17 years old, Ms. Yu arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport alone. A person from Canada’s National Ballet School was waiting for her at the exit, holding a sign with no words, just a pair of ballet shoes drawn on it.

Only four years later, in 2001, Ms. Yu was promoted to be a principal dancer at the National Ballet of Canada, an unprecedentedly fast ascension. Her principal lead dances would later include famous works, such as Swan Lake and Onegin.

Having danced for 30 years, Ms. Yu will end her memorable career on Canada’s stage this year.

For her last piece, The Merry Widow, she will perform the principal role and help celebrate the National Ballet of Canada’s 50th anniversary.

The Merry Widow will be performed at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts from June 19 to 23. It will be a last chance to experience Ms. Yu’s grace on stage, and wish her well writing the next wonderful chapters of life.

Photo by
1. Karolina Kuras
2. Cylla von Tiedemann

3. – 5. Aleksandar Antonijevic 

6. Bruce Zinger