Greta Hodgkinson in Giselle. Photo by Andrew Oxenham.

Greta Hodgkinson: Courage, Talent, Grace and Hard Work
by John Coulbourn
October 18, 2019

There are a lot of ways to make it into the history books — displays of great courage, displays of exceptional talent and acts of genuine grace are just a few.

Principal Dancer Greta Hodgkinson simply danced her way into those history books, with such ease that one might be forgiven for overlooking the courage, talent, grace and hard work that have been the underpinnings of her career with The National Ballet of Canada.
In March 2020, when Greta retires after 30 years with the company she joined fresh out of Canada’s National Ballet School, she will take her place in dance history books, along with Veronica Tennant and Karen Kain as one of the longest serving Principal Dancers to grace the company.
“I’m thrilled to be included in such company,” Greta says simply. “Veronica and Karen are two of the most iconic ballerinas in the country.”
As for the retirement, it was Karen, herself currently celebrating her 50th season with the company, who announced earlier this fall that the forthcoming season would be Greta’s last, softening the blow to her legion of fans by promising plenty of opportunity to see her in her final season. In addition to a reprisal of her Giselle, a role she has made uniquely her own through a blend of grace and artistry, Greta has also appeared in both The Nutcracker and Petite Mort  this season.
Next, in the company debut of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand, a work acquired by the company to especially mark her retirement, Greta will take her final bow. Marguerite and Armand runs from February 29 through March 7.
Her retirement has been a collaborative decision, a long time in the making, she reveals, adding that she has consulted Karen every step of the way. “I’m a planner and I try to be in control of whatever I’m doing,” she explains, adding that Karen has been an invaluable resource in that planning. “Her door is always open and I really felt like it was important for me to do this with her. I felt like she really understands because she has been in the same position and she once was a more mature ballerina going through this. Karen is a great sounding board,” Hodgkinson says. “I trust her opinion and we talked about different repertoire that would be fitting.”
In the end, however, Greta found the decision surprisingly easy when she saw the repertoire Karen had planned for this 2019/20 season. “Marguerite and Armand  encapsulates everything, not only about my career but why I wanted to be a ballerina,” she says.
As her time with the National Ballet draws to a close, the dancer finds herself looking forward to independent projects even while she looks back on an enviable career. She’s danced all the major roles and while she insists she has no favourites, “It would be like picking your favourite child,” the mother of two insists, she does admit that both Giselle and Swan Lake have a special place in her heart.
As for the choreographers with whom Greta has worked – James Kudelka, John Neumeier, John Alleyne, Jiří Kylián, William Forsythe, Glen Tetley, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Crystal Pite, Guillaume Côté and a host of others – she is equally reluctant to name a favourite or two. Instead, she says she favours “the ones who can bring out something unique and special in you, something you didn’t know you had. With them, it’s much more of a collaborative thing. That’s when you get the best work out of both the choreographer and the dancer.”
But don’t look for her to move from being a dancer to a dance maker.
“I’ve never had that itch,” she insists. I really love being a vehicle.”
And clearly, in the view from that vehicle, Greta doesn’t see her retirement as the end of the road, but rather a fork in it. Where does it go from here?
“I think I want to finish and then we’ll see how I feel,” she says, adding: “I think it’s going to be an emotional year. I do think a bit of an exhale will be nice and it’s going to be good.”
After 30 years, we've come to expect nothing less.

Angels' Atlas & Chroma & Marguerite and Armand  is onstage February 29 –  March 7, 2020.


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