Saturday, June 11, 2011

Legends of Ballet with Veronica Tennant in Hamilton June 13

Every now and then I like to write about one of my true loves, dance, and an event coming up this week serves as a launching-point for sharing some memories of a very special lady and her love of dance.

This coming Monday evening, June 13th at 6 pm, Veronica Tennant presents Legends of Ballet:  Dance-Film; A Fresh Look.  This close up and personal evening with Canada's now-retired Prima Ballerina features her award-winning Vida y Danza, Cuba, her personal experiences in Cuba and with The Ballet National de Cuba.  Also screened will be clips from her other films, including A Pairing of Swans with Evelyn Hart and Rex Harrington, her dance documentary, "Celia Franca:  Tour de Force", as well as exploring the art creativity of marrying dance and the camera, which she knows more than a little about!

The event takes place at the Hamilton Club at 6 Main Street East in Hamilton, and tickets are $ 110 per person for one lecture or $ 200 for two.  That price includes a light evening snack and beverages, and a full charitable tax receipt will be issued.  Tickets might still be available by calling 905-512-1453 or emailing

I have had the pleasure of knowing Veronica for many years now on a casual basis, although I have not run in to her for a few years now, unfortunately.  During her years as Prima Ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada from 1964 to 1989, I interviewed Veronica many times about her work, and always tried to schedule my performances around her schedule, whenever possible.  She was then, and is now, one of the most approachable, elegant, endearing people I have ever met, and I miss the Tennant evenings at the ballet which ended over twenty years ago.  Boy, that makes me feel old!

When Veronica retired from the National Ballet of Canada with a gala performance at the old O'Keefe Centre back in 1989, I made a point of being there, and it remains one of the few times I stood at the end with a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes.  Over the years, her art and talent had touched me so much.  In later years, as she and husband spent time at their summer home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I would run into her at Shaw Festival openings almost every year, and even just on the street while shopping in the old town, you would often find her doing just as we were doing.

It's hard to imagine a bigger Canadian star in the arts world than Veronica during much of her ballet career, although Karen Kain, the present Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada, quickly rose to that level herself after joining the company in 1969.  In those days, you had the enviable task of choosing a performance at the National Ballet that featured Veronica, Karen, Frank Augustyn, Rex Harrington and a host of other great dancers of the day in lead roles.  They all contributed mightily to the world-class stature of the National Ballet of Canada in a time when people couldn't even imagine a performance venue devoted solely to ballet and opera; all performances back then were at the cavernous and acoustically-challenging O'Keefe/Hummingbird/Sony Centre at Front and Yonge Streets in Toronto.  Now of course, we have a new breed of ballet stars making their mark with the company at their new home at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, which I might add, is designed by the same firm we've hired to design the new performing arts centre in downtown St. Catharines:  Diamond + Schmitt.

Those were heady days back then, and I had the pleasure and honour to regularly attend performances with the National Ballet from about 1978 to about 2005.  I miss those special evenings with all the magic unfolding onstage, but life goes on and there is so much to handle on a local level now I rarely make the trip to Toronto anymore unless it is a family or friend event I am invited to.  No matter, the memories are there, as they always will be.  And the memories of Veronica Tennant burn brightest of all.

If you ever have a chance to meet this talented producer/director and filmmaker, such as this coming Monday evening in Hamilton, it will be an experience you'll long remember!

June 11th, 2011.

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