Ballet Victoria is honouring a champion of the arts who was instrumental in building the dance company and whose unmatched dedication ensured its success and impact on the community.
Rosemarie Liscum, 59, president of the ballet company’s board of directors, died earlier this month after living through her third cancer diagnosis.
Paul Destrooper, Ballet Victoria’s artistic and executive director, first met Liscum over 35 years ago when they were both young dancers.
“She was absolutely passionate about the art form of ballet,” he said.
The company really started to develop when Liscum first joined as the board’s president in 2008, he said. She was a fundraising force who had an amazing way of getting people excited about the ballet.
“She was incredible at connecting with the community, with different patrons of the art, with people who love ballet, with businesses,” Destrooper said.
He’s eternally grateful for the work Liscum did to grow the company and empower dancers with higher wages and endless support. Whether it was a major performance or a small community event, one constant was that Liscum would be there to watch the group she held so dear.
“She was just such an amazing person with so much empathy and understood how hard the dancers work,” Destrooper said.
And when she wasn’t helping build Ballet Victoria itself, Liscum was expanding the company’s positive outreach in the community – whether it was introducing school kids to ballet or running performances for seniors, who may be more isolated from enjoying the arts as they age, through the company’s Tea for Tutu program.
“She was always instrumental for all of these programs,” he said, adding that Liscum championed putting gender and cultural diversity at the forefront of her endeavours.
Although many people have helped the ballet get to where it is today, Destrooper said Liscum was the thread who brought everyone together.
Outside of the ballet, Liscum was also involved in putting on the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s Visions gala and the Women of Distinction awards.
Liscum overcame two previous cancer diagnoses over the last 20 years. Destrooper said it was Liscum’s passion for dance that kept her going through her most recent diagnosis. She watched every one of the company’s taped performances and made every virtual board meeting since her cancer returned last spring.
Even with the cancer attacking her spine and motor skills, she still chaired last month’s board meeting.
“I hope we’ll have more champions in the community like her,” Destrooper said. “She worked hard, but I know that it gave her as much as she gave.”
Ballet Victoria will be creating a legacy fund in Liscum’s memory that people can donate to. The fund will benefit one local dancer or artist through dance award or scholarship every year.