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Acknowledged as one of the leading classical ballerinas of her time, Karen Kain is also one of Canada's foremost arts advocates, bringing the same passion and dedication she exemplified as a dancer to her roles as a spokesperson for Canadian culture and as the Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada.
A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Ms. Kain studied at Canada's National Ballet School, graduating in 1969 when she joined The National Ballet of Canada. After quickly rising to the rank of Principal Dancer, she came to the attention of international audiences when she won the Silver Medal at the Moscow International Ballet Competition in 1973. This led to a highly successful career on stages throughout the world, dancing a wide range of classical and modern roles with such companies as Roland Petit's Ballet de Marseilles, The Bolshoi Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, London Festival Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and the Eliot Feld Company.
Ms. Kain retired from dance in 1997 after a nationwide farewell tour and, shortly afterwards, assumed the position of Artist-in-Residence with the National Ballet. In 1999, her role was expanded to that of Artistic Associate and in June of 2005, she was appointed Artistic Director of the company.
Ms. Kain has received numerous accolades and awards throughout her career. 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 2002, she was honoured with a Governor General's Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement and from 2004 to 2008 was Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2007, she received the Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award for demonstrating excellence and professionalism in the performing arts. In 2008, the Karen Kain School of the Arts officially opened. The school was named after Ms. Kain for her significant contributions to the arts over her career.
Photo courtesy of Sian Richards