The mission of the Brazilian Carnival Ball is to raise money for a variety of important causes in healthcare, research, culture and education in both Toronto and Brazil. This is accomplished by providing an authentic Brazilian extravaganza, with an entertaining evening of fun and excitement for all who attend.
History of the Ball
The Brazilian Ball has had a history of friendship and togetherness since its modest beginnings in 1966. Early on, the committee consisted of only six to eight people. One of them, artist Pat Fisher, spent weeks painting murals of Brazilian scenes to make the ballroom look magnificent. Brazilian music, new to Toronto, had everyone on the dance floor all night long! The samba kept our guests coming back year after year.
Others in the early group included Michael Connor, a graphic artist, who designed our home-made invitations, and the very attractive Bernice Sintzel, who worked at the time for Gino Empry, who was responsible for the tremendous coverage the Ball received in the newspapers and magazines each year. Arthur Carman, owner of Carman’s Restaurant, always hosted a lavish reception for the press. No wonder that in 1975 the Ball made the front page of The Globe and Mail. Gino Empry persuaded the Imperial Room in 1974 to stage the Ball for the first time. We had a four-course dinner at a cost of only $6.50.
In those early years, our decorations were made along with boisterous chatter and hard work in Catherine Leggett’s basement. And then after an entire day of decorating the room and a night of dancing, we were faced early the next morning with taking down the decorations — not an easy task! At the end of all this feverish activity, we would gather for a delicious brunch and the conversation was the same every year. Wasn’t the Ball the best ever! How could we possibly do better? And yes, we have done better every year. Thanks to outstanding co-chairmen and chairmen over the years who believed in the charities they represented and gave an entire year of devotion and hard work.
Even more talented individuals started joining the Brazilian Ball committee. Heather Reid, who has been a great supporter of the Ball over the years, introduced me to the talented Sinclair Russell. His style and professional approach marked a tremendous change in decor for the Ball. He surprised us one year with magnificent-looking men on pedestals. They were naked but painted in bronze like statues. When they finally moved, all the ladies oooh’d. We were afraid Toronto was not ready for this. We were wrong!
Many other notable, talented individuals followed the daring decor of Sinclair. Doug MacLeod, Fenwick Bonnell and Robert Noakes, who lent a classic look of elegance and beauty. In 1995, Bruce Philpott put his heart and soul into creating a stunning Brazilian ambiance.
On the night of the ball a few years ago when Colm Wilkinson, star of the Phantom of the Opera, sung O Canada, Anna Maria de Souza, founder and president of the Ball, said she had tears in her eyes. She said she thought back to how a small get-together of friends, who had a longing for her native Brazil and the tradition of Carnival, had begun something whose proceeds help so many worthy causes in Canada.
Anna Maria de Souza