- hometown: Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan
- years as dancer: 12 years (student); 18 years (professional)
- favourite ballet/performance: Rite of Spring
- ballet school: Shuntoku Takagi Ballet Studio, Hamburg Ballet
- dance companies: Hamburg Ballet, and Alberta Ballet
I am a rebel. I am a performing artist. I am assertive and a risk-taker. I am passionate about ballet, contemporary dance and choreography.
Coming from a family of exceptional artists, I literally grew up around the theatre, music, and the performing arts. Although there was an unsaid expectation for me to follow in my family’s footsteps, I really didn’t want to become a composer or an actor. It wasn’t until I saw the musical, “Annie” that I connected to an art form that made sense to me. Because it was an art form that required dancing, singing and acting my parents got me started with ballet, knowing it is the hardest dance discipline in which to achieve excellence.
The rigorous requirements of the art form and the structure and logic that comes from mastering the skills, in the end, unleashed a freedom that comes from dance. The strength and foundation the practice of ballet had given me allowed for the freedom to “let go” and explore movement and expression. After all that I’ve done in my dance career, ballet is my “home” as an artist. Denying it would be denying myself.
Q: What is the greatest accomplishment of your professional dance career?
A: For most dancers, performing on one of the great stages of the world is a crowning achievement, a stage with centuries of history and where legendary dancers once stood. I performed at the Paris Opera Theatre with the Hamburg Ballet for French high society and also for the Queen of Denmark. Although these were highlights, they were not my greatest accomplishments.
To me, with the length of my career and the years I have been subjected to the rigorousness requirements of dance, I am proud that I was able to retire healthy, able-bodied, and knowing what the next chapter was going to be in my career. Since I was a young boy, I always did things with a plan in mind. The Hattori/Williamson School of Ballet is simply the next step.
Photo by: Tim Johnston
“As a group we believe in the potential of each student, beyond their own beliefs. That is what drives us to go beyond our own comfort zones, as teachers, to help them to become even more successful than we ever were.”
Photo by: Holger Badekow
Photo by: Tim Johnston
Q: What is the most challenging experience of your professional dance career (and how did you grow from this experience)?
A: Because of the expectations of the art form, I viewed my height and ethnicity as challenges to my progression as a ballet dancer. Finding a partner that would aesthetically match my height or a performance that would accept a Japanese prince was not a realistic expectation. Even when I did play a prince on stage, for me, it didn’t feel “right”.
While I was with the Hamburg Ballet, I decided to go back home to study Japanese traditional folklore dance. I got back to my roots, after a departure from my home country for many years, and literally felt my DNA connect to that art form. When I brought that cultural honesty and identity into my ballet it made me special and sought after. When I accepted my cultural identity I came to realize that my strength lies in who I am. Accepting my weaknesses and owning my true identity made me a more powerful and valuable member of the dance company. It made me a more confident person and performer on stage.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching ballet?
A: For me, the communication involved in teaching gives me a deeper understanding of what the human body is and what it can do. Seeing how my ability to communicate with a student can have a movement “click” for them is such a joy for me. I know what it feels like to struggle through a movement, to feel the frustrations, to get to the edge … and then seeing the hard work come to fruition.
As a group, we truly believe that each student can transcend more than we ever achieved. Even if they don’t reach their potential, we will never stop believing in them or their abilities. That is what drives us to continually push them, demand tireless repetition, and have them go beyond their comfort zone.