Read The Pursuit of Perfection: the life of Celia Franca by Carol Bishop-Gwyn Online


Born into a working-class family in 1921, Celia Franca, though a capable dancer, was an unlikely candidate for ballet greatness. But Celia possessed a drive that was almost unrivalled, and went on to become one of the most important figures in Canadian ballet in the twentieth century. Franca grew up in London, England, and started dancing when she was four, ultimately becoBorn into a working-class family in 1921, Celia Franca, though a capable dancer, was an unlikely candidate for ballet greatness. But Celia possessed a drive that was almost unrivalled, and went on to become one of the most important figures in Canadian ballet in the twentieth century. Franca grew up in London, England, and started dancing when she was four, ultimately becoming a star performer with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet. When a group from Toronto was hopeful of establishing a major ballet, they brought Celia across the Atlantic to be the founder. Celia went on to build the company, the National Ballet of Canada, into a major cultural force in Canada. Commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the National Ballet of Canada, The Pursuit of Perfection tells of the battles, the heartbreaks, the successes, and the accolades Celia and the Ballet shared.Finalist for the 2012 Governor General's Literary Award in the Non-fiction categoryNamed to the Globe and Mail 100 for 2012...

Title : The Pursuit of Perfection: the life of Celia Franca
Author :
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ISBN : 9781770860438
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Pursuit of Perfection: the life of Celia Franca Reviews

  • Nancy
    2019-02-04 20:21

    This is the story of a fascinating "diva" who managed with a combination of passion, talent, skill and sheer force of personality, to make a difference in the development of the Canadian ballet scene. She arrived from England in 1959 at the behest of a small group of influential Toronto women after a ballet career that spanned intensive training and performance as well as surviving conditions in wartime England. There were small ballet schools in Toronto but very little in the way of an organized "presence", something Celia sought to change with the English classical ballet as her model. She was an enigmatic individual, something I'm not sure that the book totally captures. It focuses quite a bit on her shortcomings (ie personality) and difficulties, but underlying that, one can't help but be amazed at what she was able to pull off (with some assistance of course) with very little in the way of steady financial resources and a lot of skepticism on the part of many of her board members. She worked with Betty Oliphant who was primarily responsible for the launch of the National Ballet School, but their relationship was troubled, as can be expected, I think, with such strong individuals. Celia's ability to "cut through" all the red tape and keep focused on the goal of developing a "world-class" ballet company is amazing as seen in the complexity of ballets, schedules, performers and tours that were part of the NB"s repertoire. Her private life was painful as none of her relationships seemed to really sustain her but she did have a loyal following who supported her in her latter years. I enjoyed the book which is very informative but would love to have seen more glimpses of the Celia described by both Karen Kain and Veronica Tennant as a sparkling personality, both feared and loved! As many of my generation, I grew up reading Veronica at the Wells, one of a series of British ballet stories by prolific writer Lorna Hill. I was captivated by the "magic" of the ballet life and reading this biography brought back my own longings for the "mythical" world of ballet.

  • Juliana
    2019-02-17 20:34

    The Pursuit of Perfection is a great read. As cliche as this sounds, it's the kind of book you don't want to put down. Ms. Bishop-Gwyn gives a truthful and insightful look into the -nothing short of interesting- life of Celia Franca, highlighting on the sacrifices she made and the struggles she faced in founding Canada's National Ballet. Celia was certainly a force to be reckoned with. She never backed down when the going got tough. She was a fighter. On top of that, Ms. Bishop-Gwyn captures the harsh and ruthless world of ballet- and the characters within that rule it, that isn't often spoken of outside the studio.My only criticism is that there were several typos throughout the book. It is possible it was revised in a rush in order to get it out to the public as quickly as possible.

  • Donna Wellard
    2019-01-30 16:31

    From her working class east end london roots to artistic director of the national ballet of canada, the story of Celia Franca,is totally fascinating and really rings true, warts and all. Ruthless and manipulative but at the same time proud, passionate and driven I have no doubt it was Ms. Franca's pure will and ambition that enabled her to rise to the top in the backstabbing world of ballet, but what an incredible legacy she left. A must read, especially if you too used to have a Dancing Times subscription and were under the delusion that everything was beautiful at the ballet:)

  • Eva Stachniak
    2019-01-27 21:23

    What a wonderful biography of an exceptional woman and a dancer. Celia Franca may exasperate you at times but Carol Bishop-Gwyn will keep you reading until the last page with interest and admiration for her knowledge and style. A labour of love and great experteese, The Pursuit of Perfection is the book to cherish for anyone who finds ballet fascinating.

  • Corinne
    2019-01-19 23:36

    I love walking passed the national ballet of canada and when I started reading this book it made it all the more interesting. I recommend it to people who love ballet and interesting biographies.

  • Sheila
    2019-02-06 23:28

    Charmingly written

  • Margot
    2019-02-16 19:30

    This was a very interesting read. However I think that Celia Franca was depicted a little too much from her "bad" sides.It seems that most of the people from the board, who were looking out for money and had a lot to say about her ways when she was artistic director, later apologized, saying that she was right all along with her relentless "pursuit of perfection". This was an indomitable woman, a force of nature, who believed only in the best possible ballet company for Canada and there is no doubt in my mind that the National Ballet of Canada owes her a lot. Karen Kain, the actual artistic director, certainly feels so and is very loyal to Celia Franca. The most moving chapter for me was the one about the time Nureyev came to Toronto to put on his version of "The Sleeping Beauty" which the National Ballet still dances. It is a beautiful version and I think it says quite a lot that James Kudelka who took down Erik Bruhn' version of Swan Lake, did not (dare?) to take over Nureyev's work. The dancers' comments about Nureyev are very similar to the ones of the dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet who worked with him (Isabelle Guérin, Manuel Legris, Laurent Hilaire to name just a few).Celia Franca did not have a simple or a happy life. It looks like she was always struggling, when not for the National Ballet, then for her marriage. It was a life of constant battle and it looks like the only time she was really happy, was when she was on stage at first, then in a rehearsal room or class. This was a good read, although a sad one, because for all the good she did, all that hard work, it feels from the book that she had very little recognition from the administration of the National Ballet at the time.I would recommend this book to anyone interested in ballet, particularly the National Ballet of Canada.

  • Surreysmum
    2019-01-19 20:39

    This biography of Celia Franca has a lot of good points: it's well-researched, has a full bibliography and notes, and adds to what was already known, particularly as the author had access to some oral history tapes by Franca that she would not allow use of during her lifetime.Franca herself comes across as the complex kind of person you'd expect, with a consensus that she was unusually forceful of will, and not very loveable. Just the kind of person, in fact, who was right for the job of wading into a colonial backwater and starting up a major cultural institution - or, at least, one gets the impression that's how she viewed it. I knew little of her private life, so was interested in the story of her three husbands, her close friendship with ballet artist/designer (and book illustrator) Kay Ambrose, and her very difficult relationship with Betty Oliphant, the first head of the National Ballet School. I was also very interested by how she apparently allowed the even greater ego of Rudolf Nureyev defeat her, for the sake of her company. By and large Bishop-Gwyn does not attempt any armchair psychoanalysis, but simply lets the various quotations and stories she has accumulated speak for themselves. All that said (and it is a very great deal in favour), I really, really wish the publishers of this book had indulged a little more in "the pursuit of perfection." The copy-editing, at least in the e-version I read, was atrocious. Every dozen pages or so there was a clanger like "principle" for "principal", "upmost" for "utmost", or misplaced commas after the subject of a sentence. Really? Not good enough. These things creep easily enough into first drafts, even from accomplished writers, but it's the publisher's job to banish them.Glad I read it, though.

  • Rin
    2019-01-31 22:35

    It was definitely an interesting read, but the writing was rather dry. I felt like Celia's life was fairly dramatic and exciting, and yet it came across as boring and flat. However, as usual take any review with a grain of salt. I don't have much experience reading biographies.