Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tara Birtwhistle grew up in Sherwood Park, Alberta and later moved to Red Deer, Alberta. Birtwhistle credits her pre-professional training to the Sherwood Park School of Dance and the Red Deer School of Ballet. In 1986, she began her professional training with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division. She graduated from the Professional Division in 1991 and immediately joined the RWB as a corps de ballet member. In 1995, she was promoted to soloist and in 2000 became a principal dancer.
Among the many roles she has danced, Birtwhistle’s favourites include Lucy in Mark Godden’s Dracula, Rita Joe in Vesak’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, The Cowgirl in Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo, Myrtha in Giselle and Juliet in Rudi van Dantzig’s Romeo & Juliet. She has been lauded for her soloist performances in Mauricio Wainrot’s smash sensation Carmina Burana. Birtwhistle also left her mark as the evil yet charismatic Stepmother in Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story.
Birtwhistle has been a muse for fêted choreographer Mark Godden, as he set the lead role of Queen of the Night on her for the world premiere production of The Magic Flute. Critically praised for her portrayal, her mystique as Queen of the Night was later captured on screen for the film adaptation, The Tale of the Magic Flute. Birtwhistle along with the RWB Company won a Gemini for ‘Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program’ for the film.
Godden also set the role of Lucy on Birtwhistle for his critically acclaimed ballet Dracula. Birtwhistle was also nominated for a Gemini Award for her stunning performance in Guy Maddin’s Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary, a screen adaptation of the ballet.
Birtwhistle has been invited to several command performances. She has danced for Her Majesty the Queen (England) during the Queen’s 2002 Jubilee visit to Canada. In December of the same year, she had the opportunity to perform with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and The London Philharmonic Orchestra on a 21-city tour of A Royal Christmas. Birtwhistle also danced in A Royal Christmas US Tour in 2005, which included Andrea Bocelli and dancers from London’s Royal Ballet and Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet. In January 2006, Birtwhistle partnered with Jaime Vargas at the International Stars of Ballet 2006 in Tokyo, Japan. In 2008 she performed Belong with Soloist Dmitri Dovgoselets at the Gala des Etoiles.
Among the many accolades behind her name, Birtwhistle was designated “One of 100 Young Canadians to Watch in the New Millennium” in Maclean’s magazine. As her farewell performance in May 2010, she selected the poignant and heartrending ballet The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.
Since retirement, Birtwhistle has been an integral part of the RWBs creative team. As Ballet Master, she has overseen many RWB productions at home and on tour. She continues to guest in character roles with the RWB Company.
Tara Birtwhistle and husband Dmitri Dovgoselets have two daughters, Isabella (3) and newborn daughter, Adessa 2013.
“Birtwhistle gleefully taking over the household like a whirling diva in The Lady is a Tramp is full of haughty power”
- Uptown Magazine, 2010
“It was Birtwhistle, however, who stole the show as the fiery Choleric, bursting defiantly onstage until the final montage of exploding lifts.”
- Uptown Magazine, 2008
“On opening night Tuesday at the Royal Theatre, Tara Birtwhistle, as the Lilac Fairy, spun magic every time she appeared on stage, dancing slowly and majestically to her theme music, showing off her great command of technique, her long line, and gorgeous shoulders.”
- Times Colonist, 2008
“Birtwhistle’s final embraces of her partner took the choreography to an emotional place that some dancers never reach in an entire career.”
- Dance International Magazine, 2005
“Tara Birtwhistle beamed benevolence to the tips of her long limbs. Her stage presence is a thing of wonder.”
- Winnipeg Free Press, 2005
“The charismatic Birtwhistle is an archetypal goddess, and with her highly charged deep plies and commanding arms, she evokes the quintessential feminine mystique”
- The Globe and Mail, 2003