Karen Kain

1997 National Arts Centre Award

Karen Kain is described as "a rare miracle", that extraordinary combination of talents where artistry, intelligence and ability magically coalesce. Dance has a special place in Canada and she is at the heart of all that it has become, both nationally and internationally.

Graduating from the National Ballet School, she became Principal Dancer at the National Ballet within a year, going on to a career that has made her one of the great prima ballerinas of the age. In the collectivity that is dance she has devoted her life and career to her fellow dancers as well as to her audiences, the purity and enormity of her talent inspiring all whose lives she has touched. Partnered first by Frank Augustyn, later under the inspiration of Rudolf Nureyev, she has danced virtually all the great classic romantic roles, from the Swan Queen to Princess Aurora, as well as many of the best-known contemporary works. Many contemporary choreographers, including James Kudelka and John Neumeier, have created works around her. Other greats such as Sir Frederick Ashton gifted to her such rare and precious roles as his Petrovna in A Month in the Country. She has danced with most of the major dance companies in the world -- the Bolshoi, Roland Petit's Ballet National de Marseille, the London Festival, the Feld Ballet in New York -- but has always retained her base in Canada. A decision to leave Canada might have driven her to greater heights of stardom but she both dared and had the strength to become a complete person rather than sacrificing herself or her talent to celebrity. In so doing she has achieved the pinnacle of her art.

Miss Kain is a Companion of the Order of Canada and has honorary doctorates from four universities.