Miyako Yoshida's position as a principal dancer with Britain's Royal Ballet brought her legions of admirers, first in the United Kingdom and then around the world. Currently unaffiliated with any company, she is continuing her international career. Now the Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) has designated her as its Japan Performance Ambassador, and she will be providing support for the BRB's performances in Japan.
She began her career with the BRB, formerly known as the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. We will let her tell you about the appeal of a dance company that she describes as "a wonderful company, as warm-hearted as a family."
Sir Peter Wright's production of Swan Lake, which the BRB will perform in Japan, is a work that holds a special place in Yoshida's heart.
"Actually, Wright's production of Swan Lake was the first ballet in which I danced the lead. I was still a youngster of 20, and as the understudy for the principal, I had only a brief two weeks of rehearsals before I stepped onto the stage. That's where it all began. That work was my starting point."
She praises the work, describing it as "very English, with strong dramatic elements."
"One is drawn into the worldview of Sir Peter's Swan Lake from the very beginning. As it unfolded in a natural way, I was easily able to enter into the role of Odette/Odile. After seeing me in Swan Lake, Sir Peter began casting me in a variety of other leading roles. If he hadn't been there, I probably wouldn't be what I am today."
As Artistic Director, Wright always watched over his dancers with a warmly parental attitude, and under his direction, Yoshida starred in a number of productions as a principal dancer until moving to the Royal Ballet in 1995.
"When the company moved to Birmingham in 1990, it expanded its scope a bit, and later, the role of Artistic Director passed from Sir Peter to David [Bintley], so I thought that its unique, warm atmosphere would change. Yet when I performed with them as a guest artist during the 2008 performances in Japan, it hadn't changed at all! It was exactly the same atmosphere as when I was a member of the company! That makes me very happy. It may be because the BRB is a touring company, and everyone always works together."
The Royal Ballet and the BRB are said to be sister companies.
"At the same time, they're also rivals. They have the same repertoire, but they're also completely different on some points. During the tour right after I entered the company, we performed major works at the beginning of the week and smaller works on the weekend, most of the time, for example, the small-scale works of people like Ninette de Valois and Leonid Massine, which were suitable for small theaters and which would have been difficult to stage in large opera houses. Incidentally, David, the current Artistic Director, played the role of the King in de Valois's Checkmate, and I remember that he did a fantastic job. I always used to look forward to watching him from the wings. The BRB may have a lot of people who are such skilled performers."
Yoshida is eagerly awaiting the BRB's performances in Japan, when she can see Wright's Swan Lake for the first time in a long time.
"The BRB is located in the same country as the Royal Ballet, but it's a wonderful company with a slightly different tone. I really want everyone to see it!"