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Karen Kain's name is synonymous with ballet in Canada. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Kain trained at the National Ballet School in Toronto before joining the ranks of the National Ballet of Canada in 1969. A mere two years later, she was promoted to the status of principal dancer.
In 1973, Kain won a silver medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow for her solo work. She and her main dance partner, Frank Augustyn, were awarded a gold medal in the pas de deux category. In 1977, Kain and Augustyn were invited to Moscow to star with the Bolshoi Ballet in a production of Giselle. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Kain was in demand as a guest artist with ballet companies around the world, including the Bolshoi Ballet, the London Festival Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet.
During the 1996/1997 season, the National Ballet of Canada staged a national farewell tour for Kain. After retiring from her position as a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada in 1998, Kain became the company's artist-in-residence. In 1999, she became the company's artistic associate. In 2004, Kain restaged Rudolf Nureyev's The Sleeping Beauty. That same year, the Canada Council for the Arts appointed her chair of the board.
In recognition of her impressive accomplishments, Kain has received numerous awards and accolades. She is the subject of the documentary Karen Kain: Dancing in the Moment, written and produced by former National Ballet of Canada principal dancer, Veronica Tennant. In 2001, the French government selected her as an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. Kain is a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 2002, she was awarded a Governor General's Performing Arts Award.
Kain was appointed artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada in 2005.
Kain, Karen, with Stephen Godfrey and Penelope Reed Doob. Karen Kain: Movement Never Lies, An Autobiography. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1994.