Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #50, Karen Kain

Our annual ranking of the people whose smarts, connections and clout are changing the city as we know it

Toronto's 50 Most Influential: #50, Karen Kain
(Image: Evaan Kheraj)

Karen Kain

National Ballet

50 When Karen Kain returned to the National Ballet as artistic director, the cultural institution was $1.14 million in debt. A decade later, under her watch, the company is back on stable financial footing and once again able to undertake ambitious new projects. The turnaround is thanks largely to its annual blockbuster production of The Nutcracker, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary and now appears set to surpass the one-­million-viewer mark. The holiday staple effectively subsidizes the ballet’s other performances, which this year include The Winter’s Tale, a collaboration with star British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. After a successful collaboration with Kain on the 2011 smash hit Alice’s Adventures in ­Wonderland, Wheeldon brought the Shakespeare adaptation to the Four ­Seasons Centre for its North American debut. Financial stability also means the ballet can once again commission new, homegrown works: an adaptation by ­Guillaume Côté of the beloved ­children’s book Le Petit Prince will mark the first time in 10 years that the company has performed a full-length ballet by a ­Canadian creative team.

Friends in High Places:

Richard M. Ivey, the millionaire lawyer and philanthropist who previously ponied up enough cash for ­Wheeldon and Kain to mount the $2-million Alice’s Adventures in ­Wonderland; frozen foods matriarch Margaret McCain; iconic money ­manager Ira Gluskin.

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