Least of all Japan can be thought of as a country of classical ballet. Of all Japanese arts you first think of Kabuki theater or Buto dance. And a Dying Swan performed by a Japanese dancer? That’s at least exotic. Maybe it’s because of this or due to refined taste of Minsk ballet addicts, tour of Yuka Miyake gathered two thousand spectators in Palace of Republic. Yuka Miyake, awardee of international contests and soloist of Toyota City Ballet, danced solo parts with Valentin Elizariev’s company in two plays: Giselle and Don Quixote. Behind the scene, true ballet connoisseurs still discuss her elegant mastery revealed in Quitri part and her virtuoso technique in Giselle.
I met the Japanese dancer in “Belarus” hotel, next morning after the last performance. Yuka was quiet and weary yet evidently happy. Certainly, rave reviews and applause made her feel comfortable and warm in chilly Belarusian autumn.
— Yuka, you have practiced in Vaganova Academy of Russian ballet in St. Petersburg for several years. Do Belarusian Elizariev school and St. Petersburg school differ?
— Basically, no. As far as I understood it, your ballet also sticks to Vaganova’s method. Many Belarusian dancers are graduates from St. Petersburg Academy. And Mr. Elizariev himself studied in Leningrad music conservatory. Thus Belarusian choreography is very much alike with that I studied in St. Petersburg.
— You speak Russian very well.
— My Russian is poor, thus I travel with an interpreter. Yet, really, I understand about 80 per cent of Russian speech.
— Who was the best solo partner for you in Minsk? I believe you looked most inspired with Konstantin Kuznetsov in Don Quixote, didn’t you?
— This is a complicated question. Who was the most supportive partner? Giselle and Don Qioxote are very different. Yet I realized that Valentin Elizariev is a very talented director as he has made ideal choice of partners for both plays. Kuznetsov is an airy person, he has light temper, and thus he was most natural as Basil in Don Quixote. And vice versa, Igor Artamonov is very serious and matches for Giselle as no one other. If these two dancers were swapped, the plays may have fallen. Yet I experienced no difficulties as they were chosen ideally.
— How did Valentin Elizariev respond about your dancing?
— After Don Quixote he complimented me but I could not manage to learn his opinion in detail as he went to Italy right in the middle of my tour.
— I was personally told by Valentin Nikolaevich that you performed excellent and most obvious confirmation is the sellout. I wish to thank you for the brilliant ballet dancing. By the way, how did they entertain you here? Did you like it here in Minsk?
— Everyone was very responsible here about our visit. They helped me much and I think everything was arranged at a high level, as there were no bad faults during the tour.
— And the city itself? Sightseeing? Any impressions?
— You see, I couldn’t wander much before the plays as I had a lot of rehearsals. However, I went to Minsk circus and watched performance by the Zapashny brothers. I liked it very much. And I strolled near the hotel each day: you have splendid places along the Nemiga river. In general, I liked Minsk and your ballet theater and I’d like to come here another time.
— My Japanese friends told me that sushi is insufficiently juicy here, do you think so too?
— Here I ate draniki, pancakes, borshch — delicious!
— Why! You do not keep your figure?
— As a trainee in St. Petersburg, I got used to Slavonic cuisine and since then I have no problems about it. I do not confine myself to a diet, as very much energy is lost during rehearsals and plays. Yet I watch my weight. If something is wrong about it — I just slightly limit my menu.
— They say ballet theaters are overfull with plots. Have you experienced any from Belarusian dancers?
— First, I danced only two plays and all girls seemed to be very hearty. On the contrary, they helped me and rendered all kinds of support. But, of course, many of them must have thought: “Why she came here from Japan and dances Giselle here?” I think this is natural reaction to foreigners.
— I liked our girls’ performance in Don Quixote very much. I thought: “Is it possible they do it better in St. Petersburg? This couldn’t be better!”
— I was amazed with the great number of Belarusian dancers who are very keen of their profession. They do some 20 performances a month and all of them, even the top performers, attend training next day. I liked it very much. In Japan a prima ballerina can afford a day off after a play. And how about the level of performance? Of course, St. Petersburg is the cradle of classical ballet, yet I must agree: Belarusian dancing and this of St. Petersburg are about equal in level of performance.
— I have read somewhere that Toyota City Ballet is planning to create a troupe for Japanese national ballet. To be honest, I have little idea of national Japanese ballet.
— Toyota City Ballet is a young ballet company. And we stage one new play each year. That is, we do classical plays following Vaganova’s method. I must have come here as early as in September but I was busy working upon The Sleeping Beauty. Not long ago St. Petersburg Association of artists designated our company as Tchaikovsky troupe. All tutors come from Mariinskoe and Vaganova schools, thus we have Russian choreography and teaching methods. Yet our artistic director really considers creating Japanese national ballet. Yet it is only an idea so far…
by Victoria Popova
The brilliant Yuka
Dying Swan performed by a Japanese dancer