Evelyn Hart has announced the end of her classical dance career with a whimper more than a bang. One of Canada's most beloved ballerinas is not leaving the stage cocooned in trumpets and glory; instead, she will make her final performance as a guest artist, with Toronto's ProArteDanza, at London, Ont.'s Grand Theatre this Wednesday.
Reached at her Toronto home, Hart, now 50, told The Globe that she is caught in a vicious circle. Her arthritic right ankle has never recovered properly from surgery in June, 2004. The more she performs, the more the ankle stays limber, but engagements have been few and far between of late.
"Unless I'm constantly working," she quips, "I have to perform choreography for the left foot."
Hart made the announcement in an interview that appeared Saturday. Her bio in the ProArteDanza program also refers to this concert being her last point-shoe performance. Jason Reilly, principal dancer with Stuttgart Ballet, will partner her in two works, while Hart will end the concert with the famous Dying Swan solo as her farewell.
"I have a loyalty to London," says Hart. "It is where I found my career again." Hart is referring to ballet teachers Dorothy and Victoria Carter, who saved the dancer when she left the National Ballet School in Grade 11 after only three months and returned to her parents' home in Dorchester. The Carters, mother and daughter, gave Hart back her confidence, and put her on the path to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school and company where Hart began her glittering career.
In March, 2005, Hart performed Romeo and Juliet, with Reilly as her partner, at the RWB. It was then revealed to shocked ballet fans, after the fact, that she had left the company she had called home since she was 17, and had moved to Toronto. This abrupt departure effectively eliminated any possibility of a high-profile farewell.
Since then, Hart has appeared in occasional small galas across the country, and the Toronto production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song and Dance.
This summer, Hart has been teaching in Edmonton and Italy and is about to go to Greece. While she likes teaching, coaching and being a choreographic consultant, she misses the creative aspect of dance. "I've been taking acting classes," she says, "and I hope to become involved in a dance theatre piece. The next time you see me on the stage, it will be as an actor who moves."
Hart did receive an under-publicized tribute of sorts a couple of years ago at the Encore Dance Festival in Trois-Rivières, Que. Joanna Ivey, a former National Ballet of Canada ballerina who is now on the administrative side of the company, organized a concert that showcased Hart with a potpourri of famous dance partners including the great Rex Harrington.
She adds: "Since I've left the RWB, most people think I'm retired anyway. I guess I had to finally articulate it as a fact because I have to earn a living, so I'm trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that to find out where I fit in. The rest of my body is in great shape -- but the reality is you can't do classical ballet on one leg."