Long recognized as one of the most gifted classical dancers of her era, noted for her compelling characterizations and versatility as a performer, Artistic Director Karen Kain is one of Canada’s most renowned and committed advocates for the arts. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Ms. Kain received her training at Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, joining The National Ballet of Canada in 1969. She was quickly promoted to Principal Dancer with the company after her sensational debut as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake.
In 1973, Ms. Kain was awarded the Silver Medal in the Women’s Category at the prestigious International Ballet Competition in Moscow and, along with her frequent partner at the time, Frank Augustyn, received a special prize for Best Pas de Deux. Subsequently, she embarked on a remarkable international career during which she performed many of ballet’s greatest roles with such companies as Paris Opéra Ballet, Roland Petit’s Le Ballet de Marseilles, the Bolshoi Ballet, London Festival Ballet and Vienna State Opera Ballet. Throughout her career she also developed a close creative partnership with Rudolf Nureyev and often performed with him. A favourite of some of the world’s most prominent choreographers, she premiered many new and important works during her time as a dancer.
Ms. Kain retired from dancing following a farewell tour in 1997 and took up the position of Artist-in-Residence with the National Ballet, a role that was later expanded to that of Artistic Associate. In 2004, she restaged Rudolf Nureyev’s landmark version of The Sleeping Beauty for the company and the following year was named Artistic Director.
Ms. Kain has received many Canadian and international awards throughout her career, testifying to her accomplishments both as an artist and an advocate for the arts. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada, the first Canadian recipient of the Cartier Lifetime Achievement Award and was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Government of France. In 1997, Ms. Kain was honoured with a Governor General’s National Arts Centre Award and received a Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2002. From 2004 to 2008, she was Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2007, she was presented with the Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award for demonstrating excellence and professionalism in the performing arts. In 2008, the Karen Kain School for the Arts officially opened, a tribute to Ms. Kain’s ongoing contributions to the cultural life of her country, and in 2011, Ms. Kain was honoured by the International Society for the Performing Arts with the Distinguished Artist Award.
“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
“Karen Kain… raised the standard of classical dancing, offering opportunities to a range of promising outside choreographers.”
Dancing Times, 2010
“New work. Life blood. Thought for the future. Cheers and more cheers. Floreat Karen Kain and her company.”
Financial Times (London, UK), 2009
"Kain has reinvigorated the company by hiring some superb dancers and courting the world's top choreographers. She is also assembling one of the most diverse repertoires in the company's history."
Maclean’s Magazine, 2008
to dance: the story of The National Ballet of Canada
By: James Neufeld. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2011.
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.
By: Anne Dublin. Toronto: Second Story
From the United States to Russia to
India, these women have danced and choreographed their way to the top of their
field. From classical ballet to modern, flamenco, and Bharatabatyam, they have
made the dance world their stage, performing and teaching all over the globe. From
The women's hall of fame series.
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.
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.
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
about famous Canadians from Ontario
By: Barbara McDermott & Gail McKeown. Edmonton: Reidmore Books,
Brief biographical information for
children about six people from Ontario. From the All about. series.
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.
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.
Kain's fitness and beauty book
By: Karen Kain & Marilyn Linton.
Toronto: Doubleday, 1983.
Karen Kain shares information about her
exercise program in a beautifully-photographed publication that takes the
reader from the initial warm-up to the final cool-down, including suggestions
for a beginner's program that may be developed into a more demanding advanced
one. Tips on skin and hair care are provided, along with information about
looking after the hands and feet. Kain also discusses stress and puts forth suggestions
for handling it.
Kain: born to dance
By: Meguido Zola. Toronto: Grolier, 1983.
Comprised of black-and-white photographs
of Kain in private life and in various roles, Zola attempts to illuminate the
important events in Kain's life and to give a glimpse of what it is like to be
a ballerina, stressing the physical, mental, and emotional effort and skill
that ballet demands. Includes excerpts from a diary Kain kept in grade 3. From
the Picture-life series.
Kain: lady of dance
By: David Street & David Mason.
Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd, 1978.
A photographic record of the world and
professional life of the young increasingly famous ballerina shows her in
performance and in rehearsal, solo and with Nureyev, Augustyn, and others. With
photographs by David Street and text by David Mason.
and Augustyn: a photographic study
By: Christopher Darling & John Fraser.
Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1977.
Photographic celebration of a
partnership, captured here both in rehearsal and performance by the camera of
Christopher Darling and the text by dance critic John Fraser. Foreword by Rudolf
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.
dancing in the moment
By: Veronica Tennant & Joan Tosoni. A
CBC Television production, 1998.
A program showcasing the versatility of
ballerina Karen Kain. Part documentary, part performance piece, the program
follows the arc of Kain's career, from her student days in the National Ballet
School to her final performance in Winnipeg dancing The Actress.
By: Eileen Thalenberg. A Stormy Nights
A compelling and uplifting portrait of
six older dancers. All are leading, international figures who participate in
Netherlands Dance Theatre III, a daring experimental company for dancers over
the age of 40.
ballet: The Actress
By: The National Ballet of Canada. 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.
little ol' me from Hamilton: the life and times of Karen Kain
Produced by: David Langer. A CBC
Television production, 1997.
From the series Life & Times on CBC,
traces the life and career of Karen Kain through interviews, photographs, home
movies and film excerpts.
By: The National Ballet of Canada.
Primedia production in association with CBC and RM Arts, 1990.
This special studio recording of The Merry Widow is set to the music of
the popular operetta by Franz Lehar, whose intricate tale of love affairs and
diplomatic intrigue in turn-of-the-century Paris has been transformed into a
sumptuous ballet. Australian dancer John Meehan is excellent as Count Danilo,
ordered to marry into the fortunes of the recently widowed Hanna Glawari,
danced superbly by Canadian prima ballerina Karen Kain.
Kain: prima ballerina
By: Norman Campbell & W. Paterson
Ferns. Primedia production in association with CBC and RM Arts, 1989.
The illustrious 20-year career of
Canada's prima ballerina Karen Kain, is celebrated in this special. The program
features footage of Kain dancing in many of her greatest roles, including The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and Alice.
By: The National Ballet of Canada.
Primedia production in association with CBC and RM Arts, 1989.
Choreographer Glen Tetley has created a
multi-layered ballet with dancers from The National Ballet of Canada, which
presents many of the famous antic characters from the Alice books, including
The March Hare, The White Rabbit and The Mad Hatter. Moving back and forth in
time from reality to fantasy, the ballet shows the profound impact Carroll had
on the emotional life of Alice Liddell, the child, and Alice Hargreaves, the
Fille mal gardée
By: The National Ballet of Canada. A CBC
Television production, 1979.
The National Ballet of Canada's
production of the comic ballet based on the original stage production by Sir
Frederick Ashton. Set in a peasant village in the French countryside, La Fille mal gardée is a delightful tale
of the difficult path of young love. Widow Simone is determined to betroth her wilful
daughter Lise to the eccentric son of a rich farmer, but Lise and her love
Colas conspire to thwart the widow's plans.
By: Philip McPhedran, Richard Nielson
& W. Paterson Ferns. A CBC Television production, 1977.
Follows Karen Kain dancing with the
Ballet de Marseille on tour with them, and back to Canada.
By: The National Ballet of Canada. A CBC
Television production, 1976.
Canada's beloved prima ballerina Karen
Kain and premier danseur Frank Augustyn star in this timeless tale of doomed
love and eternal longing. The romantic ballet tells the story of the peasant
girl Giselle who goes mad with grief and dies upon learning that Albrecht, her
peasant lover, has deceived her and is really a nobleman. In the ballet’s
haunting second act, the Wilis, maidens who have been betrayed and died before their
wedding day, attempt to dance Albrecht to his death. But the power of love
prevails and Giselle, now a Wili herself, saves him.
big interview: raising Kain.”
By: Richard Ouzounian. The Toronto Star, November 4, 2011.
Interview with Artistic Director Karen
Kain about The National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary.
By: Michael Crabb. Dance International, Summer 2011.
Article looking at the role reversal of
Karen Kain from Canada’s top ballerina to a “nurturer of tomorrow’s
By: Karen Kain. The Toronto Star, March 28, 2010.
A letter written by Karen Kain to her
10-year old self.
“Karen Kain’s encore.”
By: Maryam Sanati. Chatelaine, September 2009.
Interview with Karen Kain at the start of
her fifth season as Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada.
By: Sarah Hampson. The Globe and Mail, February 11, 2006.
Article on Karen Kain’s vision for
herself as Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada.
“Steel City’s gift to the world.”
By: Gary Smith. Hamilton Spectator, November 9, 2005.
A tribute to Karen Kain from the Hamilton
Spectator (and the City of Hamilton) following induction into to the Hamilton
Gallery of Distinction.
“The making of Karen Kain.”
By: Jenny Jackson. Edmonton Journal, September 10, 1997.
A seven part article tracing the life of
Karen Kain from childhood through to her final performing season.
By: Solange de Santis. Dance International, Fall 1994.
Article dsicussing Karen Kain’s career
with The National Ballet of Canada in honour of her 25th Anniversary
for more articles.
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Karen Kain @ ArtsAlive.ca
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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
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teaching the topics presented.
Karen Kain @ CBC
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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.
Karen Kain @ national.ballet.ca
Biography and career highlights of The
National Ballet of Canada’s Artistic Director.
Media @ national.ballet.ca
Media releases, kits and more articles
about Karen Kain and The National Ballet of Canada.