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Karen Kain explains why she chose ballet

When a journalist addressed Karen Kain as "prima ballerina" in 1974 the dancer quickly corrected him: "I wouldn't go that far." Kain didn't know at the time that she would one day become Canada's most popular dancer. The ballerina from Hamilton went on to draw ovations from international audiences, with performances of "Swan Lake" to the more risqué "Carmen." By the time she retired in 1997 after 27 years as a dancer with the National Ballet, Kain had more than earned the title prima ballerina.

"She wanted to improve my posture or something like that," Karen Kain says about her mother in this CBC Radio interview. Winnifred Kain first signed her six-year-old daughter up for ballet lessons to correct a slouching habit. She had no idea her eldest would one day become the most famous ballerina in Canada. At the time of this radio interview Karen Kain probably didn't have any idea either. It's 1971 and she's just 20 years old.

Softly, the ballerina tells host Bill McNeil about her teenage years and what it's like to dance the lead role for the National Ballet.
• Kain was born in Hamilton on March 28, 1951. Her family later moved to Mississauga, Ont. where she was raised. Kain had to leave home at the age of 11 to live in the National Ballet School residences.
• Kain began training at the school in 1961. Eight years later she was accepted to dance for the National Ballet of Canada.
• After one year with the company Kain got her big break. At just 19 she replaced Veronica Tennant, who was injured at the time, in the title role of Swan Lake.
Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: April 27, 1971
Guest(s): Karen Kain
Host: Bill McNeil
Duration: 4:15

Last updated: March 7, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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