(This is an updated biography for Carol Bishop-Gwn - it is more detailed than what we used in the Prize press kit )
“Ballet enthralled me as a little girl, but it soon became apparent that I lacked the ‘right stuff’ to become a ballerina.
I became a spectator with my parents, who brought me to performances of The National Ballet of Canada. My most vivid memory from those years is of watching Margot Fonteyn with London’s Royal Ballet perform on a stage that had been constructed overtop of the ice rink at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. My parents and I were sat way back in the greys watching little stick figures. Nonetheless, I was mesmerized.
As an adult, I switched my allegiance to contemporary dance – early modern western theatrical dance, to retreat into academic speak. While taking a dance survey course at Harvard University, I discovered a pioneer of modern dance, the Canadian-born Maud Allan, who in her day was just as famous as Isadora Duncan. She served me splendidly as the basis for my post-graduate degrees in Fine Arts: Dance History.
For several years, I lived in Moscow and then London, where my love of the ballet was rekindled.
Back in Toronto in 1992, I was once again in the audience at National Ballet of Canada performances. Occasionally I brought my teenage son, bribing him with a dinner at Shopsy’s before crossing the road to the O’Keefe Centre (now the Sony Centre). One night on the drive home after one of those rare transformative performances of Romeo and Juliet, he turned to me and said, ‘If you tell anyone that I really liked that ballet, I’ll never talk to you again.’ It’s too good a story to hide forever; my adult son and I are still talking.
As I explain in the introduction to my book, Celia Franca as a topic dropped into my lap, and so I felt it was meant to be. There were times during the writing of the book when I wondered if Celia was out there stirring things up. Sitting with friends one day, a bird I’d never seen before landed close by in a bush. I was told it was a cowbird. Recently someone had compared Celia Franca to a cowbird. Was that bird watching me?”
Carol Bishop-Gwyn is a writer and dance historian. She has taught courses at York University, Ryerson University, and the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Bishop-Gwyn has worked as a broadcaster and producer for CBC National Radio and as a freelance magazine writer.