Evelyn Hart

2001 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Dance)

Internationally-renowned prima ballerina Evelyn Hart is one of Canada's most treasured artists. A relentless perfectionist, happiest when she is dancing, she has devoted her life to her art and to helping Canada become an internationally recognized centre of dance excellence. During her 25 years with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB), the oldest ballet company in North America, she has raised the company's artistic standards and become one of Winnipeg's most renowned cultural ambassadors. With the RWB she has toured throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia, and has appeared as a guest artist with leading ballet companies around the world. Miss Hart is currently a principal dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and a guest artist with the National Ballet of Canada.

Evelyn Hart was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1956, and began her dance training in London when she was fourteen. She attended the National Ballet School in Toronto before moving to Winnipeg to study at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Professional Division. She joined the RWB corps de ballet in 1976, and was promoted to soloist in 1978 and to principal dancer in 1979.

In 1980 she won a bronze medal at the World Ballet Competition in Japan; later that year, at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria (considered the Olympics of ballet), she won a gold medal – the first Canadian to be so honoured – and received the rarely-awarded Certificate of Exceptional Artistic Achievement.

Her career has been electrifying. Her work in contemporary classics such as Jiri Kylián's Nuages, Norbert Vesak's Belong pas de deux, and Sir Frederick Ashton's Thaïs pas de deux have been rivalled only by her outstanding performances in the classics. She is widely acknowledged to be the world's finest interpreter of Giselle, and has thrilled audiences as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Tatiana in Onegin, and Louisa in The Nutcracker. Her incandescent artistry and ethereal grace "[give] visual form to pure emotion" (William Littler, Toronto Star); "her body and its placement are perfect... she has the ineffable image of greatness about her" (Clive Barnes, New York Post).

Besides her spectacular artistic accomplishments, Miss 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.

Awards and honours include: Officer of the Order of Canada (1983), elevated to Companion in 1994; Jean A. Chalmers Award for her contribution to dance in Canada (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); 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).