4 September 2019 12:24

Karen Kain receives the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award

On Thursday 29 August 2019, Karen Kain was presented with the RAD’s highest honour, the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award, by Dame Monica Mason. The ceremony took place at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

The award marked the beginning of a momentous year for Karen, who is celebrating a career spanning 50 years with the National Ballet of Canada.

Between them, Dame Monica and Karen Kain – whose friendship dates back decades – have completed over 100 years of service to two of the world’s pre-eminent ballet companies, The Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada respectively. Both went on that evening to judge the Genée International Ballet Competition, showing their continuing commitment to dance education and the next generation of dancers.

Commenting on the evening, RAD Chief Executive, Luke Rittner, said: “The QEII Award is the RAD’s highest honour, given to those individuals that have made an outstanding contribution to dance, and Karen Kain fulfils that criteria and so much more. She truly is an artist, a leader and an icon and it gives me and the RAD enormous pleasure to honour her.”

Dame Monica’s citation for Karen can be read in full below.


Money raised through attendance at the QEII event made a direct contribution to the subsidy that the RAD offers to all Genée candidates.

Guests on the night included supporters of both the Royal Academy of Dance and National Ballet of Canada, including:

  • Co-chair of the Genée Circle David Banks, and Torrun Banks
  • Genée Circle members, including Anna McCowan-Johnson and Jim Pitblado
  • Chan Hon Goh, the first Canadian Genée medallist
  • Donald Thom, National Ballet of Canada company member, former Genée Finalist and Genée 2019 ambassador

We thank all who attended for their time and generosity.

All photos by Karolina Kuras.

QEII citation for Karen Kain,delivered by Dame Monica Mason

“Tonight we honour Karen Kain with the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award – the highest honour of the Royal Academy of Dance – in recognition of her 50 years of working with the National Ballet of Canada and for her wider contributions to the world of ballet and the arts.

The ‘QEII’ award is presented to people who have made a significant contribution to the ballet and dance industry, and Karen has truly fulfilled and exceeded this criterion.

Karen has led The National Ballet of Canada with huge success since 2005. She has re-established the company’s international position today by commissioning bold new work and collaborating with leading ballet companies around the world.

She graduated into the National Ballet of Canada in 1969 and two years later, made her debut as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. Such was her talent that she was promoted to Principal that same year.

In 1973 she won the silver medal, and best pas de deux with Frank Augustyn at the Moscow International Ballet competition. Rudolf Nureyev recognised their gifts and began to take a special interest in them. The Canadian public subsequently took them to their hearts, and known as ‘The Gold-Dust Twins’, they were in demand around the world.

Karen’s sublime technique and artistry were obvious in both classical and contemporary works, and over almost 30 years of performing, she acquired a formidable repertoire.

Choreographers were eager to create roles for her and she performed as a guest artist for almost a decade with Roland Petit’s Ballet National de Marseille.

But Karen’s heart and loyalties were firmly back in Canada with the National Ballet.

Over the years she has been awarded numerous honorary degrees, and in 1976 was named Officer of the Order of Canada, becoming a Companion of the Order 15 years later.

She was even the subject of a painting by Andy Warhol.

Frequent television appearances added to her popularity and she was also the subject of documentaries and featured in Veronica Tennant’s Karen Kain: Dancing in the Moment for CBC television. This won her an International Emmy Award.

In 1996 Karen announced her retirement as a full-time principal dancer and the following year her accomplishments were celebrated on a nation-wide tour. That same year she became the first Canadian to receive the Cartier Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2000 the French government named her Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards in 2002 and in 2011, received the Distinguished Artist Award from the International Society for the Performing Arts.

Throughout her long career, Karen has worked for a wide variety of charities and institutions and was the elected as first president of the Dancer Transition Resource Centre, set up to help dancers wanting to transition from stage performance to a new career.

Karen was also chair of the board of the Canada Council for the Arts for 4 years, and The Karen Kain School of the Arts was re-named by Toronto elementary school children to honour her.

Long recognised as one of the most gifted dancers of her era, Karen continues as the Artistic Director of the National Ballet and as one of Canada’s treasures.

It gives me enormous pleasure to present the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award to Karen Kain.”