#TBT: Karen Kain and John Meehan in “The Merry Widow”
There’s something to be said for onstage chemistry—you certainly can’t believe in a love story without sensing it between the lovers! In this clip from the National Ballet of Canada’s 1987 televised performance of The Merry Widow, the electricity between the wealthy widow Hanna, played by former NBoC principal Karen Kain, and Count Danilo, danced by then American Ballet Theatre principal John Meehan, is palpable. The two characters, former lovers, find themselves thrust together after many years apart as part of an elaborate marriage scheme. And in Kain and Meehan’s playful performance, you sense their shared history—the way he arches his brow and holds his hand out expectantly for her, the way she side-glances knowingly and teasingly resists. With exuberant tosses of the head, they let their guards down, their flirtations betraying past hurts and signaling the reconciliation to come. It’s obvious these two are still in love, all thanks to Kain and Meehan’s authentic connection.
Since leaving the stage, both have made huge contributions to the ballet world. Kain, long understood as one of NBoC’s biggest stars, also led from the front of the studio as the company’s artistic director 2005-2021. Meanwhile, Meehan went on to direct the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and Hong Kong Ballet, and now serves as chair of Vassar College’s Dance Department. Happy #TBT!