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Meet The Artists

Biography

Eva von Gencsy

Winnipeg Ballet / Les Grands Ballets Canadiens / Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal

(1924- )

Hungarian-born Eva von Gencsy began her dance training at the Russian Academy in Budapest in the mid-1930s. Ten years later, she was a soloist at the Salzburg Landes Theatre. Shortly after immigrating to Canada in 1948, von Gencsy was hired to dance with the Winnipeg Ballet (later renamed the Royal Winnipeg Ballet). Her acting abilities and her technically strong dancing made her an audience favourite, particularly in roles such as the Lady Known as Lou in Gweneth Lloyd's The Shooting of Dan McGrew (1950).

In 1954, von Gencsy headed east to become the lead dancer for Les Ballets Chiriaeff, a dance group that appeared on television under the direction of Ludmilla Chiriaeff. The group was subsequently known as Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (later renamed Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal). At the end of the 1950s, von Gencsy left Chiriaeff's company to concentrate on television work.

Von Gencsy fell in love with jazz dancing in the early 1960s and combined it with ballet in her own choreography to produce an aesthetic fusion. She taught this form at The Banff School of Fine Arts (later renamed The Banff Centre) and in Montréal before co-founding the company Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (later renamed bjm_danse) in 1972.

Von Gencsy served as the company's artistic director and resident choreographer for seven years. Thanks to the work of von Gencsy and company co-founders and colleagues, Eddy Toussaint and Geneviève Salbaing, a ballet jazz dance craze overtook Montréal and other cities in Québec during the 1970s and 1980s. At its height, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal had over 3000 students and five schools.

Von Gencsy was instrumental in popularizing the ballet jazz style internationally. She was commissioned to choreograph solos for members of the Paris Opera Ballet, which they performed at the prestigious dance competition in Varna, Bulgaria, in 1978.

Among her awards, von Gencsy received a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal for excellence in the arts in 1977.

Websites:

Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal

Learn more:

Howe-Beck, Linde. “Eva von Gencsy.” Encyclopedia of Theatre Dance in Canada/Encyclopédie de la Danse théâtrale au Canada. Ed. Susan Macpherson. Toronto: Dance Collection Danse Press/es, 2000: 611-613.