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Evelyn Hart

Photograph of Evelyn Hart, in a tutu and pointe shoes, holding a tambourine

(1956- )
Principal Dancer, Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Evelyn Hart
Source


Evelyn Hart, world-renowned ballerina and principal dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, had a dream: she wanted "to be a dancer who would put Canada on the map." (Enright, p. 12)

In 1966, at the age of ten, while living in Peterborough, she was inspired by the beauty of Veronica Tennant's dancing, as Juliet, in a televised performance of Romeo and Juliet by the National Ballet of Canada. Evelyn began to dance at home and to admire pictures of ballerinas in books, which her mother borrowed for her from the local library.

Soon afterwards, Evelyn convinced her parents to let her enroll in dance classes at the YWCA and at age thirteen she won a place in the summer session of the National Ballet School.

In 1970, when her family moved to Dorchester, Ontario, she enrolled in formal dance classes, in neighbouring London, at a school of dance operated by Dorothy and Victoria Carter. Hart has said of the Carters, "They are indelibly etched on my soul for life. Without them I wouldn't be where I am. To this day I attribute my whole being in dance to those two women. It is because of the Carters that I am a dancer." (Wyman, p. 42)

Evelyn Hart attended the National Ballet School in the fall of 1971 but was forced to leave after three months because she suffered from anorexia nervosa. In 1973, after she regained her health and confidence, she auditioned for and subsequently accepted a place in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Professional Division where she trained under David Moroni.

She joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 1976 and promotions in the Company followed. She became soloist in 1978 and principal dancer in 1979.

With David Peregrine as her partner, Hart entered the World Ballet Concours in Osaka, Japan in 1980 and they won a bronze medal. The same year she was honoured as the first Canadian to be awarded a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. She also received the rarely awarded Certificate of Exceptional Artistic Achievement.

Max Wyman, in his biography of Hart, tells us that "she has struggled throughout her career against a sense of personal inadequacy." (Wyman, p. 123) Despite this inner conflict, Evelyn Hart's accomplishments as a ballerina are well recognized by the public. Wyman explains that "technique...was not what people watched Evelyn for. Her forte was emotional expression and a lyricism rooted deeply in her own romantic-spiritual worldview." He also observes that she has an "ability to make a connection with an audience and hold it spellbound." (Wyman, p. 118)

Hart's performances in classic ballets have won her wide acclaim. Her interpretations of Giselle in Giselle, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Tatiana in Onegin have been especially appreciated. Audiences have also responded enthusiastically to her work in contemporary classics such as Sir Frederick Ashton's Thaïs pas de deux, Jiri Kylian's Nuages and Norbert Vesak's Belong pas de deux.

In addition to touring with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet around the world, she has also performed, as a guest, with other well-known companies such as the National Ballet of Canada, Bayerische Staatsballett and the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. A 50-minute film about Hart, entitled Moment of Light: The Dance of Evelyn Hart was produced in 1992 by Blue Morpho Films with the National Film Board of Canada.

Evelyn Hart became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1983 and was promoted to Companion in 1994. In 1987, she was named Manitoba's Woman of the Year. McMaster University and the University of Manitoba presented her with honorary doctorates in 1989. She has received two ACTRA Awards for her performances on television of Belong and as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. She was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2000. In 2001, Hart received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award to recognize her lifetime achievement in the performing arts.

Max Wyman concludes his biography of Evelyn Hart with the following words: "Despite the odds against her, the fears within her, and the external obstacles she has faced, she has accomplished what she set out to do — to dance superbly, to bring a rare emotional expressiveness to Canadian ballet, and to dance on the world's major stages." (Wyman, p. 180-181)

Resources

Enright, Robert. — "Moving intimacies : a conversation with Evelyn Hart". — Border crossings. — Vol. 11, no. 1 (January 1992). — P. 9-17

Wyman, Max. — Evelyn Hart, an intimate portrait. — Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1991. — 189 p.

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