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A Fairytale Beginning for The National Ballet of Canada’s Karen Kain and Sonia Rodriguez

The Sleeping Beauty holds great historical importance with the National Ballet of Canada. In 1972, Rudolf Nureyev, one of the most renowned dancers and choreographers of the 20th century, re-staged his Sleeping Beauty for the Canadian company. To be working directly with the eminent Russian talent was an honour, and having his version of the show in their repertoire really put the company on the global map.

At the time, Karen Kain was the youngest Principal Dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, and was still trying to prove herself. When Nureyev chose her to play the role of Princess Aurora opposite him, it was her big break.

It was “a bit nerve-wracking, as he was the ballet superstar,” said Kain in retrospect. “Working with him and learning from him helped me gain valuable insight and taught me how to commit myself fully to the role.”

It was playing this role, now four decades ago, that really launched Kain into fame. Now, as the Artistic Director of the company (not to mention one of the most celebrated Canadian ballerinas of our time,) Kain is re-staging Nureyev’s iconic ballet to celebrate Principal Dancer Sonia Rodriguez’s 25 years with the company.

“She is a gifted artist and a beautiful dancer whose performances of Princess Aurora are filled with emotion and passion and executed with impressive technique,” she said.

Like Kain, it was also the role of Princess Aurora in an earlier staging of Nureyev’s Sleeping Beauty that cemented Rodriguez’ career. It was the first principal role that she performed with the company, and she remembers with gratitude having been selected to play the lead role over those who were already Principal Dancers at the time.

“I love performing it,” said Rodriguez passionately, “and not just because of that reason. It’s one of the most pure ballets that there are and I really enjoy that purity of it and that cleanliness.” Comparing it to Ballet 101, Rodriguez said, “There’s no hiding in it. There’s no extra stuff. It’s very exposed and very vulnerable, but there’s something beautiful in that that I really enjoy,” she explained.

“I feel like this is the highest point,” she said pensively. “Not just because it’s [my] 25th, but because everything seems to match together nicely. I just hope it lasts for a few more years so I can really enjoy it.”

Karen Kain and Rudolf Nureyev in The Sleeping Beauty.
Karen Kain and Rudolf Nureyev in The Sleeping Beauty.

The Sleeping Beauty will be performed at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto from June 10 – 20, 2015.