FORT AUGUSTUS - P.E.I. summer resident Sally Braley Bliss has devoted her life to classical ballet.
Her resume is impressive.
She has danced with the National Ballet, American Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and the New York City Opera Ballet.
She has also been teacher; imparting her wisdom and energies to students of ballet.
Bliss was recently honoured for her stellar work when she was presented with the Corps de Ballet’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Italy. The presentation took place at the Borghese Palace in Florence, this past July.
“It was mindboggling… It was wonderful…I was honoured,” says Bliss, adding that being recognized with an international award by her peers at an exquisite venue made for a special evening.
Christine Knoblauch-O’Neil says she’s the perfect choice for the award.
“Sally Braley Bliss is a ballet educator’s educator. Her ballet classes for our students were gems, a mixture of (Italian) Cecchetti, Mr. Joffrey, Tudor and Sally. She is the personification of the best of what we strive to be: sharing, loving to students, challenging, extending her time and great efforts so that students can be their very best,” writes Knoblauch-O’Neil, professor of the practice of dance at Washington University, in her nomination submission.
Reflecting on her career, Bliss says the biggest change in ballet in the past 50 years is access to education.
“If the dancer has some talent, you look at the talent and say, ‘this is what you need to do. This is where you need to go to study’. It’s something you couldn’t say in my era as a dancer because there weren’t many places to go to. There were also few people to train with.
“But I was lucky,” says Bliss who, with help from supportive parents, started serious dance training in Ottawa.
Born in London, England, to Canadian parents, Bliss grew up in Canada and danced with the National Ballet of Canada from 1956 until moving to New York in 1962.
She performed as a guest artist with the American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, and was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera.
In 1969, she co-founded and served until 1986 as artistic director of The Joffrey II Dancers.
Since 1969, she has also been a master teacher, guest lecturer, and adjudicator of dance festivals throughout the United States and Canada.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed her for a six-year term to the National Council on the Arts.
Upon Antony Tudor’s death in 1987, Bliss was named Trustee of the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust, created to license the rights to his dances and to stage them in a manner that preserves their style and integrity.
Her advice to up-and-coming ballerinas? Work hard and be realistic.
“I tell them, ‘It’s wonderful that you want to study but beware that it’s a hard life and you may not make it’.”
- Sally Braley Bliss has spent the past 50 summers on Prince Edward Island. “I’m in love with this gentle, peaceful place,” she says.
- Her love for the province has also inspired her family and extended family who come to visit her every year.