Karen Kain with Artists of the Ballet Photo Credits

Karen Kain with Artists of the Ballet

About The National Ballet of Canada


Established as a classical company by founder Celia Franca in 1951, it is the only Canadian ballet company to present a full range of traditional full-length classics.The company's repertoire includes works by the world’s most celebrated 20th and 21st century masters, Sir Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, John Cranko, William Forsythe, James Kudelka, Jirí Kylián, John Neumeier, Rudolf Nureyev, Glen Tetley, Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor and Alexei Ratmansky. In addition to its classical repertoire, the company also embraces contemporary works and encourages the creation of new ballets and the development of Canadian choreographers. 

Canada's premier dance company has performed for over 10 million people. The National Ballet performs annual Fall, Winter and Summer seasons plus The Nutcracker. The company has toured in Canada and the United States, and throughout the world including performances in Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands, Israel, Hong Kong, Japan, Italy and Mexico. In the coming year The National Ballet of Canada will appear at the Los Angeles Music center, The Kennedy Center in Washington, and the prestigious Sadler’s wells Theatre in London England.

The National Ballet of Canada is committed to outreach and education for families and youth who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the joys of ballet. The company has a wide range of age appropriate programs designed to engage with schools and kids in the GTA and communities all over Ontario. Our signature program for students is YOU dance. YOU dance stands for Youth, Outreach and Understanding and is designed to introduce students in grades four, five and six to the world of dance through FREE workshops and performances. Workshops are led by an Artist educator and present a learning experience for both students and classroom teachers.

The company employs 120 artists, dancers and musicians, as well as production and administrative staff. All of the sets are built in our Scarborough production centre. We are the pre-eminent builder of full ballet productions in North America and these works are rented out to ballet companies around the world.

To learn more about the history of the company visit our Virtual Museum.


“The National Ballet of Canada (led by Artistic Director Karen Kain) boasts a premier and world-class cast of members. All are in their prime and finely cultivate two main elements: dance and acting.” - Living Out Loud Los Angeles, 2014  

“The National Ballet of Canada definitely made another great impression on American audiences tonight… a testament to the quality of the dance programs and dance community in this country” – BachTrack.com, 2014  

“a company that can perform classical and contemporary ballet with equal aplomb.”  The Globe and Mail, 2014   

“The National Ballet of Canada’s first visit to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Tuesday night brought a troupe brimming with excellent dancers.”– The Saratogian, 2013 

“The National Ballet of Canada move with bright footwork and easy upper bodies: this is a lively, confident company.”
 The Independent, 2013 

“I hope for a return visit from this wonderful company in the near, rather than distant, future” – Dance Europe, 2013

“Stamina, guts and passion are what define this company right now”
National Post, 2013 

“The company looks superb and the orchestra sounds wonderful.” – The Globe and Mail, 2012 

“One of the best things about Karen Kain’s reign as doyenne of The National Ballet of Canada is her willingness to experiment with European-style ballets. Without her passion for presenting such work, we might never see these productions on our home turf.” – The Hamilton Spectator, 2012 

"Company of the Year: The National Ballet of Canada. How smart is artistic director Karen Kain? Delivering two original superhits by red-hot choreographers – Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet – in the same calendar year was an incredible feat. Not only were both shows box-office champions; they have opened the door to international touring. Now the National, ballet’s best-kept secret, will get the worldwide profile it deserves.” – The Globe and Mail, 2011 

“A triumph for Kain and company… one of those moments that defined the company's history”
– The Montreal Gazette on Romeo and Juliet, 2011

“The National’s current crop of dancers are not just good, they’re superb.” 
– The National Post, 2011 

"The National Ballet of Canada is a beautiful company, full of young talent and old wisdom… The future of The National Ballet of Canada is in wonderful hands and I am sure we will be hearing a lot from them in the international arena again." – Dancing Times2010 

Awards & Nominations

2011: The National Ballet of Canada wins a Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Sound Design/Composition in the Dance Division for the North American premiere of Chroma.

2009: The National Ballet of Canada wins four Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Production, Outstanding Performance, Outstanding New Choreography and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition in the Dance Division for the world premiere of Emergence.

2008: The National Ballet of Canada's website is a finalist in the Canadian New Media Awards.

2008: The National Ballet of Canada is nominated for two Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Production and Outstanding Performance in the Dance Division for 24 Preludes by Chopin.

2008: The National Ballet of Canada's 2008/09 season brochure won Best of Category in Web-Booklets at the Excellence in Print Awards 2008. The award was presented by the Ontario Printing & Imaging Association to St. Joseph Print Thorn for their superb production of the publication.

2005: Michael Levine wins a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for Best Scenic Design for The National Ballet of Canada's production of The Contract (The Pied Piper) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

2002: The National Ballet of Canada is awarded the Lieutenant Governor's Award for the Arts (The Jackman-Bickell Award) for demonstrating exceptional private sector and community support while maintaining a high level of excellence.

2001: A commemorative National Ballet of Canada silver dollar created by the Royal Canadian Mint.

1996: The National Ballet of Canada wins a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Choreography for The Nutcracker.

1973: The National Ballet of Canada wins an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Program-Classical Music for the television production of The Sleeping Beauty.

1969: The National Ballet of Canada wins an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety or Musical Programme for the television production of Cinderella.

1956: The National Ballet of Canada presented Key to the City of Alexandria, Virginia on a tour of the U.S.A.


Suggested Resources 



Passion to dance: the story of The National Ballet of Canada 
By: James Neufeld. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2011.
Passion to dance is the story of The National Ballet of Canada – the people who dreamt the company into existence, the determination needed to keep it afloat, the bumps on the road to its success, and above all, its passion for dance as a living, evolving art form.

The pursuit of passion: a life of Celia Franca
By: Carol Bishop-Gwyn. Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2011.
The first full biography of The National Ballet of Canada’s Founding Artistic Director Celia Franca tells Franca’s story from her humble beginnings in London’s east end to founding the National Ballet and her 24 years as Artistic Director.

The ballet class: a history of Canada's National Ballet School 1959-2009 
By: Norma Sue Fisher-Stitt. Toronto: Canada’s National Ballet School, 2010.
A powerful, compelling and entertaining look at the evolution of a school at the forefront of dance training internationally.

Reflections in a dancing eye: the role of the artist in contemporary Canadian society 
Edited by: Carol Anderson & Joysanne Sidimus. Banff, AB: Banff Centre Press, 2006.
Forty-seven prominent Canadians - artists, politicians, scientists, academics and business leaders - examine the role of arts and artists in Canada, basing their answers on the same set of questions.

Karen Kain: Canada’s prima ballerina 
By: Melanie Jones. Canmore, AB: Altitude Publishing Canada Ltd, 2005.
One of Canada's best loved and most respected dancers of this century, Karen Kain's rise to ballet stardom is an inspirational story of dedication and passion. This is a story of artistry and ambition - the joys and the sacrifices of a prima ballerina.

Beyond the dance: a ballerina's life 
By: Chan Hon Goh & Cary Fagan. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2002.
Beyond the dance: a ballerina's life tells the story of ballerina Chan Hon Goh’s early childhood in Communist Beijing, her family's flight to Canada, her rigorous training and her artistic achievements, including being the first Chinese-born Principal Dancer in the history of The National Ballet of Canada.

Encyclopedia of theatre dance in Canada 
By: Susan Macpherson. Toronto: Dance Collection Danse, 2000.
The ETDC/EDTC is the most comprehensive Canadian dance reference book and includes over 200 entries on artists, teachers, and companies, a list of music for dance, and over 60 entries on choreographic works. It is a must-have for academics, journalists, and educators.

Dancing from the heart, a memoir 
By: Frank Augustyn and Barbara Sears. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2000.
Opening with his childhood in working-class Hamilton, Ontario, Dancing from the heart is Augustyn’s account of his active dancing career, and his perspective on Canadian ballet. With humour, insight, and an appreciation of the art form, he talks about fighting the prevailing attitude in Canada that said “real men don’t dance,” and explains the trials and tribulations that the male dancer must sometimes endure at the hands of his ballerinas. He tells lively and revealing stories about the companies, dancers, and choreographers he has known and worked with, and he reflects on marriage, fatherhood, and his post-dance career as a TV producer, as a teacher, and as Artistic Director of the Ottawa Ballet.

Power to rise: the story of The National Ballet of Canada 
By: James Neufeld. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.
The precursor to Passion to dance: the story of The National Ballet of Canada.

Miss O: my life in dance 
By: Betty Oliphant & Mikhail Baryshnikov. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1997.
Betty Oliphant came to Canada as a war bride for the benefit of her young children. In Toronto, she quickly began teaching, choreographing for the opera and for pantomimes with Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. When Celia Franca established The National Ballet of Canada, Betty was Ballet Mistress for eight years and later served the company as Associate Artistic Director. Her own school became the core of Canada’s National Ballet School, founded in 1959 to ensure that future students would receive the best dance training without sacrificing their academic schooling. She succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. The graduates of Canada’s National Ballet School now light up stages around the world.

Karen Kain: movement never lies, an autobiography 
By: Karen Kain, Stephen Godfrey & Penelope Reed Doob. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995.
The sumptuously illustrated autobiography of the internationally acclaimed ballerina Karen Kain.

National Ballet of Canada: a celebration 
By: Celia Franca. Photographs by: Ken Bell.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978.
An illustrated history of the first twenty-five years of The National Ballet of Canada, including the memoirs of its Founder and Artistic Director Celia Franca and nearly 300 photographs (studio shots, publicity shots and stage shots) taken by Ken Bell of the performances and of the company off stage.

To be a dancer, Canada's National Ballet School 
By: Gloria Varley. Photographs by: Peter Varley. Toronto: Peter Martin Associates, 1971.
An intimate portrait of life at Canada’s National Ballet School.  

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Romeos & Juliets 
Directed by: Moze Mossanen. Produced by Shaftesbury in association with the CBC and with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, 2012.
From grueling rehearsals to the world premiere, Romeos & Juliets offers an unprecedented behind-the-curtain look at The National Ballet of Canada as ten dancers vie to perform the coveted lead roles on the coveted opening night of Romeo and Juliet, as envisioned by acclaimed choreographer Alexei Ratmansky in celebration of the company’s 60th anniversary.

History of The National Ballet of Canada Ballet Talk by James Neufeld 
Presented by: The National Ballet of Canada, November 16, 2011.
Writer and Historian James Neufeld on the history of The National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Appel Salon Star Talk with Karen Kain 
Presented by: Toronto Reference Library, October 11, 2011.
Karen Kain, Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada, discusses the company's 60th Anniversary with Toronto Star's Michael Crabb.

Celia Franca: tour de force 
Directed by: Veronica Tennant. CTV/Bravo!, Sound Venture Productions and Veronica Tennant Productions, 2006.
Celia Franca: tour de force is a revealing portrait of the indomitable Artistic Director who founded the internationally respected National Ballet of Canada. A non-conformist in London's ballet hierarchy, Celia swiftly gained recognition as a dramatic dancer, innovator, and choreographer. Invited to Canada in 1950 to do a 'feasibility study', Celia Franca said, "I think you need me here!". The rest is history.

The dancers’ story 
Directed by: Mark Adam and Veronica Tennant. Sound Venture Productions, Veronica Tennant Productions in association with the CBC, 2002.
The dancers' story is a choreographed documentary weaving past with present using the vocabulary of dance. In celebration of The National Ballet of Canada’s 50th anniversary, a sampling of five generations of dances – from the legendary pioneers (Celia Franca, Lois Smith, Grant Strate, Brian Macdonald, Robert Ito and others) to the prominent alumni (Karen Kain, Veronica Tennant, James Kudelka, Vanessa Harwood, Nadia Potts, Kevin Pugh, Rex Harrington and others) to the company's current and future stars (Guillaume Côté, Chan Hon Goh, Sonia Rodriguez, Xiao Nan Yu and others) – gather back at the ballet barre. Decade by decade, this compelling reunion for the camera is shot in St. Lawrence Hall, the company's original home. "The Dancer's Story" is a novel blend of documentary and freshly filmed dance performances.

Making ballet: The Actress 
Directed by: Anthony Azzopardi. A Cinerouts productions inc, 1995.
Filmmaker Anthony Azzopardi goes backstage to capture the birth of a ballet. Choreographer James Kudelka and world-famous prima ballerina Karen Kain rehearse and develop his new piece The Actress. Kudelka created the work, which explores the career and life of a famous thespian, especially for Kain in honour of her 25th Anniversary with the National Ballet, a dancer well-known for her strong dramatic ability.

Visit national.ballet.ca/interact/video for more videos.  

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The NBOC through the decades.”
By: Michael Crabb. The Toronto Star, November 11, 2011.

Celia Franca in Canada: the early years.”
By: Cheryl Smith. Dance Collection Danse magazine, No. 64, 2007.

James Kudelka 
Entire issue, Dance Collection Danse magazine, No. 49, 2000.

Visit national.ballet.ca/media/media_coverage for more articles.  

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Arts Alive 
ArtsAlive.ca is a performing arts educational website produced by the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The goals of ArtsAlive.ca are to engage younger generations of Canadians in information, multimedia resources and activities pertaining to the performing arts, and to provide free performing arts-related primary and secondary resources to students, parents and teachers to aid them in learning about and teaching the topics presented.

A brief history of Canada’s National Ballet School 
An overview of the evolution of Canada’s National Ballet School.

Dance Collection Danse 
Dance Collection Danse, Canada's national dance archives and publisher dedicated to the preservation of Canadian theatrical dance history, is a multi-faceted organization involved in collecting, publishing, distribution and dissemination, research and education. Archival holdings represent the work of dance artists, companies and events related to theatrical dance dating back to the nineteenth century. These include choreographic notes, moving images, programs, oral histories, sets, props, costumes, personal correspondence, house programs and other artifacts illustrating a dynamic and rich Canadian theatrical dance legacy.

Interact @ national.ballet.ca 
Watch videos, visit the Virtual Museum and follow company activities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Karen Kain @ CBC Digital Archives 
As Canada's public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been producing award winning programming since 1952. The Archives site is your gateway to CBC's extensive collection of Canadian and International footage.

Media @ national.ballet.ca 
Media releases, kits and more articles about Karen Kain and The National Ballet of Canada.

Veronica Tennant 
Website of former Principal Dancer Veronica Tennant.

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