Two years ago, when ballerina Karen Kain was among the first 14 inductees to Canada's Walk of Fame, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before Evelyn Hart followed in her footsteps. For decades, the names Kain and Hart have been synonymous with grace, charm, and discipline. The enormity of their respective talents is, indeed, so comparable that it remains impossible to choose one over the other as Canada's greatest, or most beloved, ballerina.
Hart's unswerving dedication to her craft began in 1970, when, at age 14, she began her studies at the Dorothy Carter School of Dance in her home town of London, Ontario. She next briefly attended Toronto's esteemed National Ballet School, before advancing to the Professional Division at the equally celebrated Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. She joined the Royal Winnipeg's corps de ballet in 1976, was promoted to soloist in 1978 and, just one year later, was again promoted, this time to principal dancer.
She has since been hailed across Canada and around the globe for her timeless interpretations of all the classic ballerina roles, including the starring roles in Giselle, Romeo And Juliet, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. Hart is, however, equally at home in the world of contemporary ballet, and has won international acclaim for such challenging and provocative works as Jiri Kylian's Nuages and most recently, James Kudelka's Missing.
So powerful and provocative is Hart's stage presence that she has even melted the cantankerous heart of Manhattan's most demanding entertainment critic, Clive Barnes. "Miss Hart is a gem," Barnes wrote, with uncharacteristic effusiveness, in the New York Post. "She has the ineffable image of greatness about her."
In 1980, Hart delighted her legion of fans by winning, at age 24, a bronze medal at the World Ballet Concours in Japan. That same year, the world became her stage when she not only was the first Canadian to be awarded a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition but was also honoured with the rarely presented Certificate of Exceptional Artistic Achievement.
Exceptional she has remained ever since. Inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1983, Hart's status was elevated nine years later to Companion, the highest order that can be bestowed. She also holds honorary degrees from the University of Manitoba and Hamilton's McMaster University, and has won ACTRA awards for her superb television performances in Belong and Romeo And Juliet.
In 1991, author Max Wyman captured Hart's inspiring life story in the best-selling biography Evelyn Hart: An Intimate Portrait. The following year, Winnipeg filmmaker Gordon Reeve captured her inimitable magic on film for the top-rated television special Moment Of Light: The Dance Of Evelyn Hart. It is a brand of magic blessed with divine inspiration. As The Edmonton Journal so accurately noted: "Evelyn Hart becomes Dance, letting the Muse come down from the heavens to live for a few brief hours in human form."