Karen Kain

2002 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Dance)

One of Canada's most beloved stars, prima ballerina Karen Kain thrilled audiences around the world for over 28 years with her unparalleled artistry. A dancer of extraordinary talent and beauty, the personification of Canadian ballet and The National Ballet of Canada, she brought emotional depth and dramatic nuance to all of her roles.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Miss Kain trained at the National Ballet School in Toronto. She became a principal dancer after only a year and was singled out as a protegée and partner by Rudolf Nureyev in 1972. The following year she rose to international acclaim when she won the Silver Medal (and, with Frank Augustyn, first prize for pas de deux) at the prestigious Moscow International Ballet Competition.

During her long and illustrious career as Principal Dancer with The National Ballet of Canada, Miss Kain performed every leading role in the classical canon and constantly challenged herself with exciting new work from the world's leading contemporary choreographers. A fascinating and infinitely varied interpreter of the Petipa, Cranko, Ashton, MacMillan, and Balanchine repertoire, Miss Kain also inspired choreographers from Roland Petit and Eliot Feld through Ann Ditchburn, Constantin Patsalas, Glen Tetley, John Neumeier, John Alleyne, and James Kudelka, all of whom created original ballets for her.

She has been guest artist with major companies around the world, from the Bolshoi, London Festival, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Vienna State, and Paris Opéra Ballets to the Ballet National de Marseille and Feld Ballet New York.

Karen Kain's artistic legacy is in part preserved in films of Giselle, La Fille Mal Gardée, La Ronde, The Merry Widow, Alice, and Making Ballet, and in several television documentaries, including most recently the Emmy Award-winning Karen Kain: Dancing in the Moment (1999), produced and directed by Veronica Tennant. Her autobiography, Movement Never Lies, was published in 1994.

Karen Kain retired from the stage in 1997 following a triumphant cross-Canada farewell tour. She continues to work with the National Ballet as Artistic Associate, teaching classes, coaching dancers, participating in fundraising activities and acting as an advisor to Artistic Director James Kudelka.

Awards and honours include: Officer of the Order of Canada, 1976, elevated to Companion in 1991; Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France, 2002; Governor General's Performing Arts Award (National Arts Centre Award), 1997; Cartier Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996 (the first Canadian to be so honoured); Performing Arts Award, Toronto Arts Awards, 1992; Order of Ontario, 1990; honorary degrees from Toronto, York, McMaster, Trent and UBC universities.

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National Ballet of Canada