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Karen Kain Biography

“When I grow up I am going to be a ballerina, I could go out every night and dance. I will be in ‘Giselle.’”  - Karen Kain, age 8 after seeing Celia Franca in the role of Giselle.

Born (1951) the eldest of 4 children in Ontario, Karen Kain’s mother enrolled her in ballet classes to improve her daughter’s poise, posture, and discipline. At age 11, Kain left home to begin studies at the National Ballet School in Toronto. Graduating in 1969, Kain joined the National Ballet of Canada and within a year was promoted to Principal Dancer.

Kain and Frank Augustyn competed in the 2nd International Ballet Competition (1973) in Moscow. The two won the Silver medal for best Pas de Deux and were dubbed “The Goldust Twins.” Kain also won the prestigious Silver Medal in the Women’s Category.

After the competition, demand for Kain rose swiftly back in Canada, as well as abroad. The 1970’s were a whirlwind of touring for Kain. At one point, she simultaneously toured Canada with two companies, one heading East to West and the other West to East. She formed a close friendship with Rudolf Nureyev, and with his guidance and influence performed all over Russia and Europe.

Roland Petit’s Le Ballet de Marseilles, The Bolshoi Ballet, the London Festival Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet & Vienna State Opera Ballet are just a few of the prestigious dance institutions that Kain danced with throughout the 1970s.  Nureyev also pressed her into being his partner for appearances in Vienna, London, San Francisco, and a tour of Australia.
After seeing her dancing begin to slip, Kain left the ballet for a year and spent her time in psychotherapy learning, as she wrote in her 1994 autobiography, Movement Never Lies, “to shift from depending on having other people believe in me to believing in myself.” 1980 marked her triumphant return to the National Ballet Company. With a few exceptions  (Italy and China), Karen Kain spent the next 17 years rededicated to the Company and only performing in Canada. In February of 1996, she announced her retirement.

Throughout her career, Kain received a multitude of honors, awards and distinctions. In 1976, Karen became an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1991 she was named a Companion of the Order of Canada. Karen holds honorary degrees from Toronto, York, McMaster and Trent Universities. 

Karen's film and television work includes being the topic of three documentaries: Dancers for Life, Making Ballet, and The Merry Widow. She made a television version of the famous ballet Giselle (1976) and La Fille Mal Gardée (1979) with Augustyn. In 1980, Andy Warhol painted her portrait.

In 1985 she helped form the Dance Transition Center to assist dancers after they stop dancing. She now serves a lifetime term as President of the organization. She is also the Artistic Associate at the National Ballet of Canada and a part of the senior management team for the company. The government of France bestowed the honor of an Officer of the Order of Arts & Letters. She was the first Canadian to receive the Cartier Lifetime Achievement Award and in November of 2002 was dignified with a Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement.

James Kudelka Biography
Born in Newmarket, Ontario, James Kudelka is renowned for his blending of traditional ballet with the movement and choreography of more modern dance.  He began his career training as a classical dancer at the National Ballet School in Toronto. In 1972 he joined the National Ballet of Canada. He choreographed his first production to Bach’s Goldberg Variations while still a student.
In 1981, Kudelka became a principal dancer for Les Grands Ballet Canadians, but soon his gallant choreography became the focus. In 1983 he choreographed In Paradisum, an emotionally passionate work that became the benchmark of his career. From 1984 to 1990, he was the company’s resident choreographer.
In 1991, he won a prestigious ‘Outstanding New Choreography’ Dora Mavor Moore Award for his work, Fifteen Heterosexual Duets. A year later, Kudelka received a newly invented position, Artist in Residence at The National Ballet of Canada.  In 1996, he was selected Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada. He was the first choreographer ever to receive that appointment.
James Kudelka has both performed and created a variety of shows around the world. His major works include In Paradisum (1983), There, below (1989), Pastorale (1990), Fifteen Heterosexual Duets (1991) The Actress (1994), The Nutcracker (1995), The Four Seasons (1997), Swan Lake (1999) and The Contract (2000). Kudelka premiered his second full-length narrative ballet, The Italian Straw Hat, in the spring of 2004.