Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen of the Theater Academy Helsinki wrote: Modern Western dance trends were introduced to Japan for the first time by the musician, choreographer and dancer Baku Ishii (1886–1962). He started his career as a musician and then worked with opera while he finally ended up as a modern dancer and choreographer. He was influenced by the Eurythmics of Jacques Dalcroze and later by the German expressionistic Ausdrucktanz. He created his “dance poems” in their spirit. He successfully toured Europe and the United States in 1922–25. After his return to Japan, he founded his dance studio in 1926, which later became his influential modern dance school. Many Japanese as well Korean dancers studied there. The Korean students who had been his pupils are credited with being pioneers of the modernistic movement in Korean dance. [Source:Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen, Asian Traditional Theater and Dance website, Theater Academy Helsinki **]

Butoh, Avant-Garde Dance

Butoh a is strange sometimes grotesque blend of avant-garde dance and gymnastics featuring near-naked performers with shaved heads, white cake make-up on the heads and bodies, bared torsos, and white loinslcothes. Sometimes the dancers wear molten-like masks or have rope suspended from one ear like an earing. Butoh developed in the 1960s and has received a great deal of international attention.

Butoh dancers are trained to move every muscle and joint on their bodies. The movements are slow and often grotesque and are regarded as kind of performance art. The best known practitioners of butoh are the five-man troop called Sankai Juku, which is known for doing various kinds of movements while hanging off the ground from cables. Based in Paris, Sankai Juku was formed in 1975, is led by Ushio Amagatsu and has performed in more than 700 cities worldwide. .

A Butoh-based international dance festival was hosted in Tokyo in 2006, with dancers from Japan, Britain, Israel, Spain and South Africa.

Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-86) staged the first butoh performance in Tokyo in 1959. He was schooled in Western dance forms but became dissatisfied them and sought a more expressive form and created ankoku butoh (“dance of darkness”). The first butoh performance Kinjiki (“Forbidden Colors”) was based on a Yukio Mishima novel. It contained references to homosexuality and featured the smothering of a chicken. Hijikata was blacklisted but Mishima liked the work. Hijikata once said, “We shake hands with the dead, who send us encouragement from beyond our body; this is the unlimited power if Butoh.”

Kazuo Ohno is regarded as a cofounder of butoh along Hijikata, He was inspired by the Spanish dance Antonio Merce but didn’t give his first recital until he 43. He still had a long career though. He turned 100 in 2005.

History of Butoh

Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen of the Theater Academy Helsinki wrote: Among Baku Ishii’s many Japanese students was Tatsumi Hijikata (1928–86), who established a completely new kind of modern dance, butoh. His early works, created in the period of student riots and political upheaval, represented the so-called “butoh of the darkness”. The first of Hijikata’s early works was the “Forbidden Colours”, based on Yukio Mishima’s novel. It used Western music, as did his following pieces of the “dark period”; they attempted to shock audiences, both sexually and aesthetically. [Source: Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen, Asian Traditional Theater and Dance website, Theater Academy Helsinki **]

Later, Hijikata also turned to Japanese themes and attempted to strip the Japanese body from its Western influence. This led to the invention of the “butoh uniform”, that is the naked body covered with white make-up. He also invented his “metamorphosis technique”, in which the dancers train to change their characters, for example, from various animals into a human being. Thus Hijikata invented the basis of butoh, which later, in the hand of younger artists, has assumed various styles and emphases. Another of the “first generation” butoh artists is the legendary Kazuo Ohno. His style drastically differed from Hijikata’s from the very beginning. Ohno is possibly the dancer with the longest career in the world. He is still dancing at the age of over 90. Several important “second generation” artists further widened the scope of butoh. Min Tanaka created his robust “country butoh”, whereas, for example, the Sankai Juku company, led by Ushio Amagatsu, developed its highly visual and aesthetic style. **

Many Western dancers and theater revolutionaries have been influenced by traditional forms of Asian theater and dance: Artaud by Balinese dance, Brecht by Chinese opera, Grotowsky, Barba and Brook by Indian forms, etc. No other contemporary Asian form of performing arts has, however, been as influential internationally as butoh has been. Hundreds of Asian and Western dancers have studied butoh and dozens of choreographers around the world have created their works under its influence. Furthermore, butoh has also inspired various theater and opera directors in Europe. **

Saburo Teshigawara

Contemporary dancer and choreographer Saburo Teshigawara is famous for Glass Tooth, a piece in which a dancer dances on and around a few tons of broken glass pieces. The dancers wear shoes and as far as anyone knows no one has been seriously hurt. Christoph Mark wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Lying in a room covered in the most beautiful broken glass imaginable....Teshigawara ever so slowly rolls and contorts his body as the shards crunch beneath him. And then, a sudden jerk as he flips over, raising his abdomen into the air and sending a rave of surprise through the audience.”

Teshihawara began his dance career in 19811 and has worked mostly in Europe. He formed a dance company called KARAS in 1985 with dancer Kei Myata in pursuit of a “new form of beauty.” He has written pieces for the Paris Opera ballet and had his pieces performed by a number of famous European dance companies. Another famous Teshihagwara piece, Here to Here, features a dancer dancing among different kinds of light inside a kind of cage of white panels.

Osaka-born choreographer Yoshiko Chuma is known for her modernist pieces incorporating seven-foot aluminum, cubic frames.

Eiko and Koma

Eiko and Koma Otake are two Japanese dancers that have an international following. Joan Acocella wrote in The New Yorker: Both born in Japan soon after the Second World War they never had any intention of becoming theatre artists. In the nineteen-sixties, at their respective universities, they both studied political science. But in Japan, at that time, as in the United States and Europe, there was a widespread student-protest movement, mainly antiwar, mainly in response to the huge postwar military presence of the United States in Japan, a situation that de facto involved the Japanese in the Vietnam War. The students’ conflict with the authorities was nasty: tear gas, clubbings, jailings. Eiko and Koma were part of it. (Koma bound one of his professors with tape and threw him out of the classroom.) [Source: Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, April 11, 2011]

The two of them, independently, left university and turned to avant-garde dance, a form popular with Japanese radicals, since it seemed to them free from capitalism, commodification, conservatism, and conformity. They briefly worked in the studios of Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, pioneers of the rather horrifying, anti-traditional style called Butoh. (It was in Hijikata’s studio, in 1971, that they met.) They got little attention from these masters, however, and so they moved to Germany, where there was still a remnant of the highly expressionist modern-dance movement that had been led by Mary Wigman before the Second World War.

By now, Eiko and Koma were not just dancers but choreographers. In Hanover, they studied with Manja Chmiel, who had been Wigman’s assistant, and she taught them economy---how to find what they really wanted to say and then scrub away the rest. Eventually, the couple decided to go to New York, at that time the capital of experimental dance. To raise money for the trip, they returned to Japan and worked in a kindergarten; she as a teacher, he as a bus driver. At night, in the classroom, with the toys cleared away, they practiced a piece they had been working on for years, “White Dance.” (Last year, as part of their retrospective, they remounted it at Danspace Project. It was sort of a mess. They needed even more economy than Chmiel had taught them.)

They moved to New York in 1976, a time when many American vanguardists---preëminently John Cage---were still fascinated with Asian art. For five years, they had some success. Then, in 1981, they decided that they had been influenced by too many artists, and they left town, moving to a property in the Catskills. There, for two years, they lived with eight chickens, as Koma told Shoko Yamahata Letton (from whose master’s thesis, at Florida State University, much of this biographical material is drawn), and asked themselves what they really cared about. They found an answer in nature, the things that were around them. Hence the names of the dances that they now made: “Tree,” “Land,” “Grain,” “Rust,” and so on.

Eiko and Koma Dance

Joan Acocella wrote in The New Yorker: From their discovery of nature, and from Japanese, German, and American minimalism, they evolved their performance style. First, they began to place enormous emphasis on sets, taken from nature: leaves, dirt, water. They also did site-specific work. “River,” a piece from 1995, was premièred in the Delaware River, with Eiko hanging on to a log. And they saw themselves as part of nature’something bumping out of the tree, the leaves, as slowly as changes take place in those elements. This sounds serene, wholesome. It wasn’t. When Eiko and Koma performed, they seemed to be in pain. Think of those war stories one hears in which, after a massacre, the arriving troops find, under a pile of corpses, an arm or a leg feebly waving, or a child crying. Take away the corpses, and there you have Eiko and Koma. This austerity is, or was, due in part to the fact that they possess almost no dance technique. They never had an opportunity to learn any. “Our movement is basically same,” Eiko told Shoko Letton. “Embarrassingly same.” Like good craftsmen, they made a virtue of necessity.

Many people have likened the couple’s work to Butoh---a comparison that Eiko and Koma object to adamantly. In fact, they have a lot in common with Butoh: the naked body, the primitivism, the slowness, the note of horror. These similarities may be due not to descent from Butoh, however, but to the fact that they and Butoh descend from shared sources: above all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (“From Trinity to Trinity,” a book written by the Nagasaki survivor Kyoto Hayashi, and translated from the Japanese by Eiko, was recently published by Station Hill.) Furthermore, Eiko and Koma’s performances differ from Butoh in a number of important ways. Their limbs don’t make a great, beefy show, in the manner of Sankai Juku, the Butoh troupe that has been seen most often in the U.S. (Eiko holds her arms in bizarre, bent-back positions. How does she get them there? Should she see an orthopedist?)

More crucially, the two of them do not ordinarily play the same roles. Koma looks like us. Things happen to him. Eiko is what happens. She is our ghost, our bad dream, our coming death. Finally, there is the subtlety, the knottedness, the ambiguity of their gestures. I must say that their shows, like Noh plays, are too long and too slow for me. I start thinking: Did I feed the cat? Did I send my aunt a birthday card?

Bare Truths: Eiko and Koma in “Naked”

Joan Acocella wrote in The New Yorker: When you go to Eiko and Koma’s “Naked”---performed at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York in April 2011---what you see is two bodies lying side by side on a mound of soil and feathers. So this is a scene from nature, but it is no pastoral idyll. The bodies are white, gaunt, and utterly naked. They move little, and slowly, and mostly just in relation to each other. Koma puts his foot on Eiko’s knee; she puts her arm inside his elbow. They don’t look at each other while they’re doing this. They seem to see not with their eyes but with their pores. Koma, at one juncture, hoists his buttocks into the air. Accustomed, by this point, to the glacial slowness of the couple’s movement, we see this action as intensely dramatic, like an Act II curtain. What will happen now? we wonder. What happens is that he puts his buttocks down, in a slightly different position. [Source: Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, April 11, 2011]

“Naked” is part of what they have called their Retrospective Project, celebrating forty years of collaboration, thirty-five of them in New York. It includes not just performances but videos, photography shows, and other art. Eiko and Koma are not so much a dance duo as an arts organization. She writes; he paints, etc.

“Naked,” is open-ended. You can come and go as you please. (Each night, Eiko and Koma perform for four to six hours, with one five-minute break.) But, however much you may zoom in and out, you are rewarded, when you zoom in, by the intensity of the proceedings. As Koma lifted his rear into the air, I stared into his navel for a long time---these people give you time---and I thought that if I could look into that dark hole a little longer I might discover a great deal about life.

This may be just a compensatory fantasy, a product of the audience torture so widely practiced by the avant-garde: since you’ve waited this long, there has to be a payoff. I don’t think so, though. Part of the reason my mind tends to wander in Eiko and Koma’s pieces is just the sheer, frightening concentration of what they do.

Ditto their nakedness. In the past, they have usually appeared with little clothing---maybe a loincloth for Koma, a sarong for Eiko. (She has long performed bare-breasted.) But maybe, at their age, they think that they can now perform completely nude without appealing to prurience. In any case, their exposed bodies---pale and skinny---push everything to the limit. Here is what they said to Alan Kriegsman, of the Washington Post: When we perform, we like to imagine that each of us is a fresh fish which was just caught and is on the cutting board. The fish intuits that somebody will eat it. No room to be coquettish. The fish’s body is tight, shining blue, eyes wide open. No way to escape. Who else, in contemporary dance, performs with this kind of directness’so cold and serious?

Ballet Dancers in Japan

Ballet was also among the Western forms of performing arts adopted in Japan in the early 20th century. Nowadays Japan has several ballet companies and dozens of first-class ballet dancers.

Although ballet and modern dance didn’t really catch on until after World War II, Japan has produced some first rate dancers and companies. Among them is Miyako Yoshida, a top ballerina in the Royal Ballet in London. Mizuka Ueno is an up and coming ballerina at the Tokyo Ballet. Yukari Saito is the prima ballerina of the Tokyo Ballet. She also works in Russia and speaks Russian.

Morihiro Iwata, the only Japanese principal soloist at the Bolshoi Theater Ballet, retired after the season ended in June 2012. "Bolshoi has been my dream, goal and hope," Iwata, 41, said in October 2011. Iwata became a member of the theater in 1995. He has received high praise for his expressions and jumps despite his small physique. Iwata said he will work as a ballet choreographer both in Russia and Japan after his retirement. "I am so happy to dance at the theater, which will be renovated to maintain the original look, even for a short period," said Iwata, who is from Yokohama. "I will dance, embracing each performance." [Source: Hideki Soejima, Kyodo October 11, 2011]

Yoko Morishita: Pearl of the Orient

Dubbed the “Prima Ballerina of the World” and the “Pearl of the Orient,” Yoko Morishita was the first Japanese ballet dancer to flourish on the international scene. Her style, characterized by a sense of compressed passion that belies her 150 centimeters height, is greatly admired both in Japan and overseas. She started to study ballet at the age of three and entered the Matsuyama Ballet Company in 1971. After she won the Gold Medal at the 1974 Varna International Ballet Competition, she made many guest appearances with leading ballet companies around the world and was the first Japanese ballet dancer to make an appearance in the Paris Opera.

She danced with Rudolf Nureyev more than 200 times, including a memorable performance for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. She also provided inspiration for choreographer Maurice Béjart who created the successful piece, Light for her. Morishita has received many awards including the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award in 1985, and in most cases, she has also been the youngest person to receive the award in question. Even after 61 years of dancing career, she still practices 5 hours every day, honing her skill as an active prima ballerina, concentrating on Swan Lake and other classical works.

Morishita was born in Hiroshima in 1948. She moved to Tokyo in 1960 and studied under Akiko Tachibana at the Tachibana Ballet School She debuted as a Prima Ballerina at the age of 12 in 1961. She studied in the United States in 1969. In 1971 she transferred to the Matsuyama Ballet and studied under Mikiko Matsuyama

In 1974 Morishita became the first Japanese to win the Gold Prize at the Varna International Ballet Competition, Bulgaria In 1975-76 she studied in Monaco as a research student of Japan’s Cultural Agency. In 1976 she made her international debut as a Prima Ballerina including the Big Gala Concert in Washington DC. In 1977 she performed Grand Pas de Deux with Nureyev in Don Quijote at Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. In 1981 she appeared in Light, a new ballet choreographed by Maurice Béjart for Morishita.

In 1982 Morishita became the first Japanese performer at the Paris Opera. In 1985 she was the first Japanese to win the Laurence Olivier Award. In 1987 she served as a judge on the international jury for the Prix de Lausanne. In 1997 she won the Distinguished Cultural Service Award. In 2001, she was appointed as the Director of the Matsuyama Ballet. In 2002 she became a member of the Japan Art Academy. Morishita was still dancing in 2013 at the age of 65.

Rudolf Nureyev Glows with Yoko Morishita

In February 1983, Anna Kisselgoff wrote in the New York Times, Since he opened with ''Don Quixote'' and the Boston Ballet Rudolf Nureyev “was at his most happily inspired Saturday night at the Uris Theater with his fourth and final new partner - the Japanese ballerina, Yoko Morishita. Together, they made for an old-time star evening. Repeatedly, they moved and danced in the same rhythm, on the same psychological wavelength. Miss Morishita's technique was so superbly strong, so skillfilly filtered through a net of dramatic phrasing, that she made the adagio of the final grand pas de deux a show-stopping experience. [Source: Anna Kisselgoff, New York Times, February 7, 1983 //\\]

“It was the quality of her dancing that interested Mr. Nureyev so intensely. When he brought his face close to Miss Morishita's in the same adagio, this unusual image appeared less part of the scenario's love story than as a token of esteem for her dancing. She had, in fact, just executed a flawless turn into an arabesque, seemingly all by herself. In all respects, she had the role of Kitri down pat. Miss Morishita is a dancer of international class and, unlike many others, up to Mr. Nureyev's level. Light, small and totally assured in her balances, she is an excellent partner for him. She did not always project, as in the ''vision'' scene, but her whirlwind spins, her leaps a la Plisetskaya and her general demeanor helped the choreography to sparkle. //\\

“Rarely has one seen Mr. Nureyev so happy on stage. When he finished his first solo, he looked totally satisfied with himself. If he was slightly off compared with opening night, he injected so much precise virtuosity generally into the performance that no Cheshire cat could have the right to smile as much as he did.” //\\

Young Japanese Ballet Dancers Win International Contests

In February 2012, Madoka Sugai, 17, won the Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition for young dancers in Lausanne, Switzerland. "Winning [the Prix de Lausanne] has greatly encouraged me for my future. I'd like to become a dancer who can move people," Sugai said. The Prix de Lausanne is known as the gateway to success for young ballet dancers aged 15 to 18. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, February 7, 2012]

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: Judges lauded Sugai for not only her classical dance routine, but also her dynamic contemporary dance program, which is often considered a weak spot for Japanese dancers. Experts expressed hearty congratulations to Sugai, saying they hoped she would become a superb dancer.

At the competition, Sugai danced to "Raymonda" for her classical dance routine. Ballet dancer Miyako Yoshida, one of the judges for the competition, said: "[Sugai's] dance performance was of extremely high quality. Especially in the contemporary dance category, her dynamic dance, with its controlled movement and good use of music, strongly impressed all the judges." Yoshida, who won a prize in the Prix de Lausanne in 1983, was delighted with Sugai's achievement, saying: "Her remarks after the competition were very impressive. She said, 'It was really fun for me.' I'm glad that a Japanese dancer won the top prize."

Sugai, who is eligible to study at a prestigious ballet school, hopes to enroll at a school affiliated with the Birmingham Royal Ballet in England, according to sources close to her. At Sasaki Ballet Academy in Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, where Sugai trains, her mother Yoshiko said, "It's like a dream. I still can't believe it."

Influenced by her elder sister, now 20, Sugai began attending ballet school at the age of 3. She practices for about five hours every day after school, and sometimes returns home after midnight, her mother said. Yoshiko, who had watched her daughter's performance on the Internet, said: "I could see the tension in her expression." She added, "I'd like her to continue practicing, now that she is at the beginning [of her career.]"

A total of 226 people from all over the world applied for a spot in this year's competition. Of those selected to compete in Lausanne, 19 were Japanese. Of the 21 finalists, five were Japanese. Yuri Midorikawa, 53, Sugai's ballet teacher, said, "She's such a powerful and tough student who continues practicing until she's stopped by an instructor. I think that hard work bore fruit." Ballerina-turned-actress Tamiyo Kusakari, who also participated in the competition when she was 17, said: "The competition was a starting point for my ballet career. Winning the competition is her starting line for the obstacles ahead. I hope she will spread her wings around the world by cultivating her talent."

Young Japanese Ballet Dancers

Hideki Sukenari wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Tokyo Ballet dancer Dan Tsukamoto made his debut at the Paris Opera House in May 2012 when his company performed there for the first time in 19 years. Tsukamoto, 22, was chosen to star in performances held in recognition of the Tokyo Ballet's 700th overseas performance. With the exception of the Paris Opera Ballet, the lavishly decorated Palais Garnier has only allowed internationally renowned ballet troupes such as Russia's Bolshoi Ballet to perform there. "I thought the Paris Opera House was far beyond my reach," Tsukamoto said in an interview before the performance. [Source: Hideki Sukenari, Yomiuri Shimbun, May 30, 2012]

Born in Kyoto Prefecture, Tsukamoto took ballet lessons every day as a high school student. "At that time, I thought only about ballet," he recalled. Tsukamoto joined the Tokyo Ballet in 2008 as he yearned to be a part of the troupe's powerful male corps de ballet.The 184-centimeter dancer shone with his dynamic performances and was chosen two years later to star in the troupe's production of "The Kabuki," a ballet adaptation of "Kanadehon Chushin- gura," a kabuki classic that tells the story of the 47 ronin during the Edo period (1603-1867). The piece was also performed at the Paris Opera House. "The choreography is very hard and exhausting, but I can get into the role when I draw my sword during the raid scene [at the climax of the play]," he said. [Ibid]

Madoka Sugai, who won the prestigious Prix de Lausanne competition for young dancers in February 2012, trained at the National Youth Ballet in Germany after winning the award. Sugai chose the German company that was founded last year by John Neumeier, an internationally acclaimed ballet dancer, choreographer and director of the Hamburg Ballet. Neumeier created the company based on a new concept: It will serve as a hybrid educational institution and professional group, incorporating aspects of both establishments. [Source: Hideki Sukenari, Yomiuri Shimbun, June 22, 2012]

18-Year-Old Kumiko Ishii: First Japanese to Join Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet

Faith Aquino wrote in the Japan Daily Press, “Kumiko Ishii was already in second grade of elementary school when she started dancing ballet, which is considerably late for most ballerinas, especially those who aim to go pro. Now 18 years old, Kumiko has become the first Japanese national to be a part of the prestigious Mariinsky Ballet, which is based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. While in fifth grade, Kumiko learned more about ballet through a Russian instructor. The experience led to her dream of becoming part of the Mariinsky Ballet, commonly referred to by its former name, Kirov Ballet. The 18-year old admitted watching the performance of the ballet company on DVDs. Russian ballet is known all over the world and Kumiko aimed to learn the style. “I could show my ballet beautifully if I danced the way they do,” she believed. [Source: Faith Aquino, Japan Daily Press, Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2013 ==]

“An audition at Vaganova Ballet Academy, Kirov Ballet’s affiliate school, opened the door to Kumiko’s dream when she passed was accepted. The academy was named after famous Russian ballet instructor Agrippina Vaganova, who was also known for developing the Vaganova method. The teenage ballerina admitted feeling inferior to her Russian counterparts, but promised to do her best. “Ballet is the only thing I can and should pursue,” Kumiko said. ==

The Mariinsky Ballet was founded in 1740 as the Imperial Russian Ballet. Although a long-established ballet company, it was only in the 20th century when foreign ballerinas were allowed to join. Hiromi Terashima, who used to be a part of the ballet company of Tokyo’s New National Theater, had been a trainee of Kirov Ballet. Kumiko Ishii shared that she admires prima ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina, who is also a principal dancer of the Kirov Ballet. Should Kumiko rise to rank of being a principal dancer, she can join fellow Asian ballerina Lisa Macuja, a prima ballerina known for being the first foreign soloist of Kirov Ballet. “She’s like a goddess,” referring to Lopatkina, “I’m not sure if I can become a dancer like her, but I’d like to dance in as high a position as possible.” ==

Yuriko Kajiya: Soloist with American Ballet Theater

Born in Nagoya, Japan, Yuriko Kajiya began her training at the age of eight. At ten, she moved to China and became one of the first foreign students to study with and graduate from the Shanghai Ballet School on scholarship. During her stay in China, Kajiya performed many times on Chinese national television. [Source: Ballet Theater Foundation, Inc.]

In 1997, at age 13, Ms. Kajiya won the Best Performance Award in the senior category at the Tao Li Bei National Ballet Competition. In 1999, she became one of the youngest finalists at the Third International Ballet Competition in Nagoya. In January 2000, she won the renowned Prix de Lausanne Scholarship which enabled her to study at the National Ballet of Canada School in Toronto.

Ms. Kajiya starred in the 2007 documentary Passion Across a Continent in Japan. She also appeared on the Tokyo Talk Show and presented the American Ballet Theater documentary Dancers. She has performed as a guest in Japan dancing Odette in Swan Lake, Act II and A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as appearing in galas at the West Virginia Dance Festival, Santa Fe Festival, Chicago Dancing Festival, the Hope and Pride Gala of Japan, New National Ballet Gala and the Prix de Lausanne. Most recently, she appeared in a 90-minute documentary entitled Yuriko: Ballerina.

Ms. Kajiya joined American Ballet Theater's Studio Company in September 2001. She became an apprentice with the main Company in 2002 and was promoted to the corps de ballet in June. She was appointed a Soloist with American Ballet Theater in August 2007. Her repertoire includes Gamzatti and first and second Shades variations in La Bayadère, Blossom in Cinderella, Gulnare and an Odalisque in Le Corsaire, Kitri, Amour and a Flower Girl in Don Quixote, Giselle, Zulma and the peasant pas de deux in Giselle, Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Clara and the Grand Pas de Deux in Alexei Ratmansky's The Nutcracker, Clara in Kevin McKenzie's The Nutcracker, Olga in Onegin, Henrietta in Raymonda, Princess Florine, the Lilac Fairy, the Fairy of Joy and the Fairy of Fervor in The Sleeping Beauty, the pas de trois, cygnets, Polish Princess and Hungarian Princess in Swan Lake, the Waltz in Les Sylphides, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and leading roles in Baker's Dozen, Ballo della Regina, Birthday Offering, Brief Fling, Chamber Symphony, Dark Elegies, Désir, Diversion of Angels, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, In the Upper Room, The Leaves Are Fading, Overgrown Path, Petite Mort, Rabbit and Rogue, Seven Sonatas, Sinfonietta, Symphony in C and Theme and Variations. She created a leading role in Alexei Ratmansky's Dumbarton.

Growing Popularity of Ballet Lessons in Japan

Japan is becoming a significant presence in the world of ballet, a recent survey shows, buoyed by a large number of aspiring dancers who benefit from close attention at small schools. According to a survey by Showa Academia Musicae, a Kawasaki-based music university, more than 400,000 people are expected to take ballet lessons throughout the country in 2012. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, February 27, 2012]

Most ballet schools are small---the average number of students is fewer than 60---but the limited size of the classes allows ballet dancers to receive more personalized instruction.In the survey, a research team led by Kumi Koyama, a professor at the music university’s junior college, and Toyo University Prof. Bin Umino found there were 4,630 ballet schools across the nation after examining data from ballet groups and stores selling ballet goods last year.

In Europe, it is common for aspiring professionals to receive specialized education at national and public ballet schools. In contrast, ballet instruction in Japan has been provided mainly at small private ballet schools. According to a questionnaire sent to ballet schools about 70 percent of the schools are privately run and 80 percent have fewer than 100 students. Forty-nine percent of the ballet schools send their students to competitions, while 28 percent were established no earlier than in 2001.

Koyama said the number of people studying ballet in Japan was much larger than in many other countries. “I think the number of ballet students has increased because [internationally known] dancers like Tetsuya Kumakawa and Miyako Yoshida, who were active overseas, are now performing in Japan,” she said.

Image Sources: Ray Kinnane Liza Dalby's geisha site 3) Andrew Gray Photosensibility JNTO, xorsyst

Text Sources: Encyclopedia of Dance; Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen, Asian Traditional Theater and Dance website, Theater Academy Helsinki **; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated January 2014

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