A woman of striking appearance and engaging demeanour, Belle Shenkman devoted her energising flair to the furtherance of important arts ventures, especially on behalf of Canada, where she was brought up before later moving to London.
Dressed with faultless chic, she could persuade senior corporate executives that they actually wanted to give large sums for whatever project she was promoting, whether orchestra, ballet company or exhibition. In return, she delivered a cultural package and a sense of occasion that added prestige to the corporate image and superior entertainment to the public.
In the belief that Canadian art and artists should command international attention she was responsible, in 1972, for promoting the first visit to London by the National Ballet of Canada, at the London Coliseum, where their success greatly helped a subsequent tour on the Continent. She again promoted later visits by the company to the Coliseum in 1975 and in 1979 to the Royal Opera House, with another European tour in 1987.
She raised pounds 30,000 from corporate sponsorship for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to appear in London at Sadler's Wells in 1982, then took the company on to Cyprus in aid of the Cyprus Red Cross, and to Cairo. Other endeavours brought the Montreal Symphony to London in 1976, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir to the Edinburgh Festival in 1980, the Toronto Symphony to London in 1983 and the first visit of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival company to the Old Vic in 1984. She received the Canada Medal in 1979.
Nor were her efforts all directed one way. After the Canadian Ballet's success at Covent Garden, she was asked first to organise the Royal Ballet's tour of Canada in 1981. She acted similarly in organising a six-week tour of Canada by the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet in 1983, in liaison with the Canada Council and the British Council.
Her dark, exotic beauty was of Ukrainian origin. She was born Belle Gubler in Kiev, emigrating with her parents to Canada when she was but three months old. They settled in Ottawa, where she attended the Lisgar Collegiate school and, aged 20, married Harold Shenkman, an Ottawa businessman. …