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Karen Kain Celebration Gala, Toronto

The National Ballet of Canada finally had the chance to rally its greatest supporters for an evening to celebrate Karen Kain. In 2021, after a triumphant 16-year term as the company’s artistic director, she announced her retirement. Kain first joined the National in 1969 as a member of its Corps de Ballet. She was promoted to principal dancer in 1971 after a dazzling debut as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the ballet she would revive to great acclaim as a fitting finale this past June.

The gala, originally slated for 2020, was co-chaired by philanthropic powerhouses Emmanuelle Gattuso and Lynda Prince. The black-tie dinner raised $1.6-million for the company. Cocktails were given in the atrium of the Four Seasons Centre, followed by a swish dinner which was served onstage, a dazzling experience that never loses its lustre even for the most seasoned ballet givers. Throughout the evening remarks were made, including virtual well wishes from Celine Dion and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, in-person effusions from the company’s executive director Barry Hughson, former principal dancer and producer Veronica Tennant, and even a serenade by Kain’s husband, producer Ross Petty.

Principal dancer and choreographic associate Guillaume Côté created a work especially for the evening, performed by principal dancers Heather Ogden and Brendan Saye. The whole piece was beautifully set to Leonard Cohen’s reading of Dance Me to the End of Love, recorded especially for Kain and originally appearing in Tennant’s 1998 documentary, Karen Kain: Dancing in the Moment.

“This has been a lot, in a truly wonderful way,” Kain said at the beginning of her own remarks, which focused on her gratitude toward the countless people who she said “helped me to attain goals and fulfill dreams that would have otherwise remained out of reach.”

Among those out to celebrate: Hermès Canada CEO Jennifer Carter, in attendance with her husband Michael Cassels, and producer and philanthropist Ivan Fecan, and his wife Jae Kim; generous ballet supporters including former senator Nicky Eaton, Ira Gluskin and Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, Roz Ivey and Laura Rapp and Jay Smith of CIBC, the event’s presenting sponsor.

Karen Kain and Jonas Prince at the Karen Kain Celebration Gala, in Toronto.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

Gala co-chairs Emmanuelle Gattuso and Lynda Prince.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

Hermes CEO Jennifer Carter and Michael Cassels.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

A Feast in The Forest in support of Indspire, Toronto

Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works was a fitting backdrop for A Feast in The Forest, a fundraising event that supported Indspire. The Indigenous charity is focused on investing in the education of Indigenous people in Canada. In 2021-2022 alone, Indspire provided $23-million to more than 6,600 Inuit, First Nation and Métis students across Canada.

Using ingredients indigenous to both North and South America, First Nations Chef David Wolfman prepared a dinner for the 600-or-so in attendance. Annie Aningmiuq and Cynthia Pitsiulak kicked off a series of performances with a few katajjaq songs. Later, composer Jeremy Dutcher took to the stage to share works that bring together his Wolastoq First Nation roots (specifically a series of 1900s wax cylinder field recordings) with classically influenced music. Tracie Léost, Indspire’s 2018 youth laureate, spoke after dinner of the trajectory-altering power that education has had on her life. Capping off the evening was a thrilling set by the legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie.

On co-chairing duties for the evening were renowned lawyer and activist Roberta Jamieson and philanthropist Janice O’Born. There in the room too were Indspire president and CEO Mike DeGagné, Indspire board chair Donald E. Worme and philanthropists Barry and Laurie Green. North of $1-million was raised at the event.

Fashion designer Leslie Hampton at A Feast in The Forest, a fundraising event that supported Indspire.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

A Feast in The Forest event co-chair Janice O'Born.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

A Feast in The Forest event co-chair Roberta Jamieson.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

Cynthia Pitsiulak.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

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