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National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain is seen in this undated handout photo.

Karolina Kuras/The Canadian Press

Ballet superstar Karen Kain will retire as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada in January, 2021.

The ballet’s board of directors says Kain will step down from the post, but remain with the company as artistic director-emeritus.

The announcement comes nearly 15 years after Kain assumed the creative reins in 2005, and 50 years after joining the company as a dancer in 1969.

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She says serving as artistic director “has been the greatest honour” of her life.

The ballet’s board chair, Cornell Wright, lauded Kain for inspiring “excellence in all who have the privilege to work with her.”

Kain commissioned and acquired 65 works for the company, and is set to direct and stage a new Swan Lake in June, 2020.

“I am so proud of the National Ballet of Canada and feel so fortunate to have had this wonderful company as my artistic home for 50 years. The role of artistic director is the most challenging, and the most rewarding, of my career,” Kain said Friday in a release.

“The goals I set when I assumed this position required a huge commitment from our dancers, staff, board and donor community. The unwavering support I received allowed my dreams to become a reality and I am so grateful.”

The move follows other recent exits from the National Ballet. Earlier this month, director of production James Thornley also stepped down from his position after 30 years with the company, but he will continue on as production consultant on Kain’s Swan Lake.

In September, Kain announced that principal dancer Greta Hodgkinson would retire in 2020 after a career spanning 30 years.

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Hodgkinson’s final roles will include coming performances in Giselle and The Nutcracker.

Under Kain’s tenure, the National Ballet embarked on 29 Canadian tours and 23 international tours, including a first-ever tour to Moscow and St. Petersburg, where it was embraced by audiences and critics, and a visit to Paris for their first appearance in 45 years.

Kain also commissioned, co-commissioned and co-produced 24 new works from international and Canadian choreographers, received worldwide acclaim for the calibre of dancing and achieved 10 years of operating surpluses and a $104-million fundraising campaign.

“Karen Kain is an extraordinary artist and an extraordinary leader,” Wright said.

“The National Ballet is now in demand around the world, receiving accolades from audiences and critics in Moscow, New York and Paris to name just a few.”

Kain’s distinguished dance career included a close creative partnership with Rudolf Nureyev and international guest performances with Paris Opera Ballet, Roland Petit’s Le Ballet de Marseille, The Bolshoi Ballet, London Festival Ballet and The Hamburg Ballet.

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Earlier this year, Kain was the first Canadian to be honoured with the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award, the highest honour given by the Royal Academy of Dance.

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