Karen Kain will retire as Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada in January 2021 and will be named Artistic Director Emeritus. She has been the company’s Artistic Director since 2005.
Toronto Life once said,
Under the reign of Karen Kain, The National Ballet of Canada has flowered into one of the most thrilling companies in the world.
Kain is the longest-serving Artistic Director of the National Ballet since founder Celia Franca, and has led the organisation with great success. One of the greatest classical dancers of her generation, she joined The National Ballet of Canada in 1969 and went on to a distinguished career. She retired from dancing in 1997 and took up the position of Artist-in-Residence, a role later expanded to Artistic Associate, then Artistic Director in 2005. Under her tenure, the National Ballet embarked on 23 international tours, commissioned, co-commissioned and co-produced 24 new works, and achieved financial success with 10 years of operating surpluses.
The Company’s Executive Director Barry Hughson, remarked,
Karen Kain has been an extraordinary partner, collaborator and has become a dear friend. She has impeccable taste, a keen eye for talent and a deep and abiding passion for this country, company and artform. As a Canadian cultural icon, she is also remarkably humble, kind, and generous. When she steps down in January of 2021, we will have worked together for seven years and they have been some of the most exciting, satisfying and meaningful in my career because of her.
Kain commissioned and acquired an astonishing total of 65 works for the company, including such memorable full-length productions as Romeo and Juliet by Alexei Ratmansky, Nijinsky, The Seagull and A Streetcar Named Desire by John Neumeier, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Winter’s Tale by Christopher Wheeldon, Frame by Frame by Robert Lepage and Guillaume Côté, Le Petit Prince also by Côté, Hamlet by Kevin O’Day, Pinocchio by Will Tuckett and she will be directing and staging a new Swan Lake in June 2020.
The one-act ballets that Kain commissioned or acquired for the company include Emergence by Crystal Pite, Chroma and Genus by Wayne McGregor, Petite Mort by Jiří Kylián, The Man in Black by James Kudelka, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Approximate Sonata 2016 by William Forsythe, Watch her by Aszure Barton and The Dreamers Ever Leave You by Robert Binet.
Cornell C. V. Wright, Board Chair of The National Ballet of Canada, said,
Karen Kain is an extraordinary artist and an extraordinary leader. This great organisation has been so fortunate to benefit from her brilliance for the past 50 years. When Karen agreed to take on the role of Artistic Director, she identified three distinct goals: to return the company to the international stage, to attract the world’s greatest choreographers and dancers and to cultivate Canadian talent. To say she achieved these goals is an understatement. Karen surpassed expectations of all three.
The National Ballet is now in demand around the world, receiving accolades from audiences and critics in Moscow, New York and Paris to name just a few. The world’s greatest choreographers including Crystal Pite, Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor and Alexei Ratmansky have created or set work on the company. Canadian choreographic talent has been fostered through exciting programmes she initiated. Karen continues to inspire excellence in all who have the privilege to work with her. While her visionary leadership will be greatly missed by all of us when she steps down as Artistic Director in January 2021, I am so pleased and grateful she has agreed to continue her connection with the company as Artistic Director Emeritus.
Karen Kain said,
I am so proud of The National Ballet of Canada and feel so fortunate to have had this wonderful company as my artistic home for 50 years. The role of Artistic Director is the most challenging, and the most rewarding, of my career. The goals I set when I assumed this position required a huge commitment from our dancers, staff, board and donor community. The unwavering support I received allowed my dreams to become a reality and I am so grateful.
A new generation of National Ballet dancers have taken international stages by storm and thrilled even the most discerning ballet audiences. The world’s most in-demand choreographers have come to our studios to work with our artists and shared exciting new work with our audiences. We have fostered Canadian talent through CreativAction, the appointment of Choreographic Associates and Innovation, our all-Canadian programmes. I look forward to celebrating my 50th anniversary during the 2019/20 season and unveiling programming for 2020/21 in February.
Being Artistic Director of this organisation has been the greatest honour of my life. When I step down in January 2021, I know I leave a financially stable company with the very best dancers in the world, one of the most diverse and coveted repertoires and an international reputation for the highest level of excellence.