Ballet Victoria concluded its 14th season with Beauty and the Beast, set to music by Delibes, Dvorak, Gounod, Tchaikovsky, and choreographed by Artistic Director Paul Destrooper.
As always, filled with beautiful and masterful dance, joyous humour, great performances, and elements of surprise, the ballet captivates audiences of all ages and leaves us always wanting more!
The entire ensemble had a chance to demonstrate their talents and grace in this performance.
I interviewed Risa Kobayashi, who has been with Ballet Victoria for 6 seasons, and who was very kind to take the time to answer my questions.
KAT SARK: You’re originally from Tokyo, how would you describe the differences in ballet culture (performances, practices, choreographers, and audiences) between Japan and Canada?
RISA KOBAYASHI: There are differences between Japan and Canada. In Japan, many people consider ballet to be a difficult art that is less accessible to people, whereas in Canada it is considered an art for everybody. In addition, it is very hard for professional dancers in Japan. If you say, “I am a professional ballet dancer,” someone will likely ask you, “That’s your hobby, right? What do you do for a living?” But in countries outside of Japan, including Canada, being a ballet dancer is considered a respectable career. In Japan, dancers have to pay for tickets to their own shows and sell them, but I don’t have to do that here.
K.S.: You have studied ballet in both countries, what are some of the differences in teaching ballet in both countries?
R.K.: In Canada, I have learned it is important to know your own strengths and weaknesses. No matter what your dance focus, you need to know your body. Also, I have learned basic training is essential to improve your technique and to prevent injury.
K.S.: You’ve been with Ballet Victoria for 6 years, what roles have you performed, and which are your favorites and why?
R.K.: I have performed many roles in my career. Performing different kinds of ballets is such a different experience that I could not pick a favorite. However, one of my favorites is Dew Drop in The Nutcracker. I have performed this role so many times, but I have danced with different partners every year. I enjoy dancing with a different partner because it is very challenging and it allows me to grow as an artist. As partners, you learn from one another. Every dancer partners and acts differently, and that makes the process more interesting.
K.S.: In Beauty and the Beast, you are cast as the Rose Enchantress and have many variations of dances with Andrea and the other dancers. What were some of the challenges preparing for this role? What were the highlights?
R.K.: The Rose Enchantress was a magical role. I had to portray a strong and a powerful character while still looking delicate and beautiful. It was challenging for me to work on my character trying to find the right combination in between my own artistry, technique and musicality. But that’s the most enjoyable time, when everything kind of falls into place and it just works and I have a connection with other dancers and the audience. It could be really magical!
K.S.: How do you spend your free time when you’re not dancing or rehearsing?
R.K.: When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with friends. Also, I like to make earrings and headpieces for the show.
K.S.: Has Victoria become home or do you still consider Tokyo your home? Do you go back to visit, or do you prefer to travel elsewhere?
R.K.: Victoria has been definitely my home for the last several years. Of course, I love my hometown, Tokyo. However, I really enjoy living here in this wonderful city. I go back home every summer to spend time with family and friends. Also, I teach ballet and do private coaching at my old ballet studio in Tokyo. I am so glad to be able to teach what I have learned from the many amazing teachers and choreographers in my career in Canada.
K.S.: What advice would you give to young dancers?
R.K.: I think it’s very important to do whatever you can to stay positive and focused because the ballet world is tough. It’s going to be a bumpy road, and it’s going to be frustrating. However, don’t compare yourself to others. You can look up to people, and aspire to be whoever your favorite dancer is, but you have to create your own story in order to be successful because that’s what makes an artist. Think your way to success by believing in yourself!
Photos by Gail Takahashi