40THENEXT STEPJillian Vanstone andAleksandar Antonijevicin Alice's Adventuresin Wonderland. Jirí Jelinek withArtists of the Balletin Romeo and Juliet.
41f course, Karen Kain was never one to rest on pasttriumphs. The renowned dancer turned ArtisticDirector, who thrived in leading roles for nearly threedecades within a profession not known for careerlength, knows a thing or two about an encore. With amajor international tour planned that includes London, Los Angelesand Washington, and a full slate of regional performances includingAlice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Four Seasons, Romeo andJulietand Nijinsky, this season could be one of the National Balletof Canada's best yet.In advance of the 2012/13 season, COLLECTIONS' JeremyFinkelstein sat down with Ms. Kain to discuss the evolution of the artform, the coming season, reality television and more.COLLECTIONS: In your opinion, what makes a great ballet experience?Karen Kain: An open mind on the part of the viewer. Ballet can bemuch more than people imagine it can be. I think many people havean idea of what ballet is in their heads, about maybe what it once was,which is an art form that began in the 19th century. But while someof that repertoire is still performed, the physical prowess, athleticismand artistry of the performers today is right up there with what you seeat the highest level of sports entertainment and artistry from any otherart form. It's a very specialized art form and it's a very exotic art form,and it can be a totally entrancing, intriguing experience, whether youpick the most contemporary work or the work of another era.C: Over your career, how has the ballet evolved or adapted to changingsocial tastes?KK: I think the art form has become less about the past and moreabout the times that we live in. The people who perform and the artistswho create the work are living in our world today and are influencedby everything from the music to the politics, to the popular culture anddifferent cultures. There's an influence on the art that I think makesit more current and more interesting. C: What direction do you see ballet moving towards?KK: There are so many places it can go. It's a collective art form so itreally depends on the inspiration of the many people that I choose towork with us, what their ideas are, and how they translate their ideasto the other artists, costume designers, lighting designers, andmusicians. It constantly amazes me how the art is expanding, and itreally has to do with the influences of the people that come into ourmidst and inspire everyone. C: You've performed around the world. How would you compareToronto's ballet experience to those in other markets?KK: Thinking of other markets, I think of New York, London, Paris,Moscow, and Leningrad. They're probably getting more exposure thanwe get here from other countries and other artists. In some ways we'reisolated. Even to get to New York, it's not a quick train ride the wayyou can go from the main cities in Europe to see what other companiesare doing. One of the reasons I want our company to tour more isbecause I feel that the quality of the product we are producing is sohigh, but people really don't get to see it. So we have a very excitingyear ahead. For the first time in 25 years, we're going back to London,England. For the first time in 10 years, we're going back toWashington, DC, and we're also going to Los Angeles. It's reallyexciting for us to be able to proudly display what we're doing here tothose audiences.C: What has the advance response been? KK: Well, I don't think we would have been invited to these places ifthe producing partners didn't believe in the repertoire that we're doingand the way we do it. We're taking Alice's Adventures in Wonderlandto Los Angeles and Washington. People came here to see it and theninvited us to go there. To London, we are taking our brand new Romeoand Juliet. There are many versions of Romeo and Julietinternationally,but this is our very own that no one else has by one of the most majorchoreographers working today, Alexai Ratmansky. So we are gettinginvitations to perform because of that.Karen Kain and the National Ballet prepare to build on a memorable 60th anniversary.Last year, the National Ballet of Canada celebrated its60th season. With a new take on the classic Romeo andJuliet, a remounting of the popular Chroma, a tour ofWestern Canada, a series of well-received initiatives likethe Tutu Project, and James Neufeld's updated Passion toDance: The Story of the National Ballet, one could forgivethe company if it chose to take a breather in 2012/13.OOpposite: Artistic Director Karen Kain on stage at The National Ballet of Canada located at the Four Seasons Centre. Photo by Bruce Zinger. Portrait above by Sian Richards.