Evelyn HartTuesday, July 04, 2006
As a magazine photographer in Vancouver for 30 years I have taken pictures of interesting people from actors like Vincent Price and Helena Bonham Carter to politicians like John Turner and writer William F. Buckley. But in 1995 I got to photograph ballerina Evelyn Hart. While I had attended dance performances before, I had never been exposed to a ballerina like this one. At the end of two special days I fell in love with dance and with Hart.
I first saw Evelyn Hart in December 1995 at Vancouver's Metropolitan Hotel, in what had been the billiard room of the old Mandarin Hotel. She was like an origami swan, all straight lines. When I saw her dance the next day in the Nutcracker, she reminded me of Claire Bloom in Limelight, playing the suicidal ballerina who is saved by the washed-up clown played by Charlie Chaplin. I had marveled at other ballerinas and been wowed by their technique, but here was a ballerina whose brilliant technique played second fiddle to her ability to act. I have seen quite a few performances of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet but after seeing Hart’s version I cannot imagine any other dancer in the part.
For two days, I was privy to a remarkable and extended interview with Hart by dance journalist Shannon Rupp. I felt I was hiding behind a priest hearing a confession. On the second day, in her Queen Elizabeth Theatre dressing room, the then-39-year-old ballerina expressed anxiety about her career and the ticking clock. It was amazing to see Hart open up and reveal this not only to Ms Rupp but to also to me. It was at that point that I decided to take my portraits. Because of Hart's generosity I was rewarded with one of the best portraits I have ever taken. Everything in it, including the hammer with which Hart pounds her shoes into softness was as it was.
I cry when Hart is on stage. I don’t notice the other dancers. I only have eyes for her. I make a point of getting a seat in at least the fourth row (binoculars just won't do), and from there Hart is the ultimate Juliet - especially in the scene where she is to take the good friar's potion that will put her in a catatonic sleep. Hart dances en pointe bourree forwards and backwards, oh so exquisitely as she agonizes over her decision. Having taken Hart's portrait at rest I realize that no matter how good a picture of her I might take of her dancing it would pale in comparison to what it is when a ballerina opens up her heart, just for me, in her dressing room.
Spaniards have a word, fenómeno, for talent that has no rational explanation. Manolete, Casals, Evelyn Hart.