On Friday, National Ballet of Canada announced that artistic director Karen Kain will step down in January 2021 to become artistic director emeritus.

Kain, who has served as artistic director since 2005, joined NBoC as a dancer in 1969 and went on to become one of the company's most beloved stars, often dancing alongside Rudolf Nureyev.


During her tenure as artistic director, Kain has been credited with raising the level of dancing in the company and putting NBoC back on the international stage. "Touring has become difficult and expensive," she told writer Michael Crabb when we honored her with a Dance Magazine Award in 2015. "I can't replicate the experience I had 40 years ago, but I'm determined to pursue what's possible. We'd been almost totally left out for too long. Now, we're part of the conversation in the ballet world again."

A young Kain in a flowy transparent dress with a pattern and details at the top. She has her hair up in a headpiece. She clutches her hands together, is up on pointe on one foot and has the other leg behind her in a tiny arabesque. She looks down towards her foot

Karen Kain in Romeo and Juliet

Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy NBoC

Indeed, under Kain's leadership the company has made critically-acclaimed appearances in New York City, London, Paris, Moscow, Los Angeles and other cities, and has strengthened its touring presence within Canada. Kain has also expanded NBoC's repertory with work from today's leading choreographers, including Crystal Pite, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor.

Developing Canadian talent has been a priority for Kain, which she's done through programs featuring exclusively Canadian choreographers like Azure Barton, Eric Gauthier and principal dancer Guillaume Côté.

"Being artistic director of this organization has been the greatest honor of my life," Kain said in a press release. "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."

Though today we see more and more women leading major ballet companies, Kain was one of the first of this wave when she became artistic director in 2005.

NBoC's board has established a committee to conduct an international search for a new artistic director.

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