I have the honour to present Miss Evelyn Anne Hart, Officer of the Order of Canada, and a principal dancer of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for ten years.
A native of Peterborough, Ontario, Miss Hart came to Winnipeg in 1973 to study in the Professional Programme of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. She joined the company in 1976, and became a soloist in 1978, a principal dancer in 1979.
While her performances in classical roles, among them Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Onegin and Les Sylphides, have been highly acclaimed, her work in the modern repertoire has also been electrifying. Dance enthusiasts have especially fond memories of Five Tangoes. Nuages. Piano Variations III. Firebird, Our Waltzes, the Don Quixote pas de deux, and, perhaps her best known work, Norbert Vesak’s Belong pas de deux. Miss Hart won a Bronze Medal at the World Ballet Councours in Japan, and the Gold Medal at the International Ballet Competitions in Varna, Bulgaria, both in 1980. At Varna, she accumulated the highest marks since the first competition in 1964, and was awarded the rare tribute of the competition's only Exceptional Artistic Achievement Award.
With the rest of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Miss Hart has represented Winnipeg and Canada on tours throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. As well, she has appeared as a guest artist with the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet, Tokyo Festival Ballet, the Odessa State Ballet, the London Festival Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada. She has appeared in several television specials, twice winning ACTRA awards for Best Variety Performer, and recently performed in the London Festival Ballet's film production of Swan Lake.
Still, a listing of awards and accomplishments cannot adequately convey an appreciation of Miss Hart's artistry, for dance is its own language, the language which Miss Hart will speak to us today. Many have tried to capture in words the experience of watching her dance. William Littler says of Miss Hart's dancing that it "gives visual form to pure emotion." Clive Barnes says ". . . she has the ineffable image of greatness about her"” Choreographer Rudi van Dantzig has compared Miss Hart to the great Ulanova: "For me, Ulanova was one of the unearthly people. Evelyn is like that - in a world, in a class, of her own." Perhaps the words which can come closest are Shakespeare's, his Romeo speaking to Juliet:
...thou art / As glorious to this night . . . / As is a winged messenger of heaven / . . . When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds / And sails upon the bosom of the air.
When Evelyn Hart dances the role, she is that image: a very human woman but at the same time "a winged messenger of heaven" "[sailing] upon the bosom of the air".
Miss Hart's individual artistic achievements are spectacular but it is important, too, to recognize her contribution to the development of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and to the art form as a whole. Her fellow dancers recognize her as a tireless and dedicated worker, and her perfectionism inspires emulation. Furthermore, a number of ballet critics attribute the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's recent growth and more ambitious programming to the company's attempts to accommodate Miss Hart's ever growing talent, her soaring flight. She challenges - challenges the abilities of her co-performers, challenges the imaginations of her audience. The effect of Miss Hart's challenge, her example,extends beyond the walls of the Concert Hall. To us, members of the community lucky enough to be the one in which she lives, works, and performs, she is a living demonstration of the possibility, and, yes, the cost, of being the best in the world, and of the ineffable rewards ofaccepting nothing less from oneself.
Mr. Chancellor, it is an honour and a privilege for me to ask in the name of the Senate that you confer upon Miss Evelyn Anne Hart the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
-citation delivered by Arnold Naimark, President, University of Manitoba