Evelyn Hart, C.C., O.M., F.R.S.C.
As ballet dancers go, Evelyn Hart started her training late, making her sterling career and accomplishments are the more remarkable.
Born in Toronto in 1956, she began her training at 14, in London, Ont. She attended the National Ballet School in Toronto before moving to Winnipeg at 17 to study at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s professional division. She joined the RWB corps de ballet in 1976, was promoted to soloist in 1978 and to principal dancer in 1979.
In 1980, Hart won a bronze medal at the World Ballet Competition in Japan; later that year, Hart became the first Canadian to win a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria – considered the Olympics of ballet – for the pas de deux Belong, choreographed by Norbert Vesak.
Besides her spectacular artistic accomplishments, Hart is recognized for her contribution to the development of the RWB and the art form of dance as a whole. Many of the classics of the company’s repertoire (including Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty) were brought in specifically to showcase her talents.
Her biography, Evelyn Hart: An Intimate Portrait, by celebrated Vancouver dance critic Max Wyman, was published in 1991; Moment of Light: The Dance of Evelyn Hart, a 50-minute film by Winnipeg filmmaker Gordon Reeve, debuted on national television in 1992.
In 2005, Hart left the RWB to dance as a freelance artist. On Aug. 23, 2006, she danced her swan song at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. She also danced as a guest artist with Toronto’s ProArteDanza, ending a 31-year career.
Hart’s awards and honours include: the Officer of the Order of Canada (1983), elevated to Companion in 1994; Jean A. Chalmers Award (2000); inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto (2000); named a “Friend” by Vancouver’s “Friends for Life” for her lifetime contribution to the organization (2000); Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Dance) Governor Generals Performing Arts Award (2001); two ACTRA Awards for best variety performer; YM-YWCA Woman of the Year (1987); Laureate of Excellence, University of Manitoba Health Science Centre Foundation; honorary doctorates from the University of Manitoba and McMaster University (Hamilton); Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2006); Member of the Order of Manitoba (2006).