Beauty, attention to detail and elegance: in a city where these qualities abound it seems only fitting that Fukuoka will play host to an International Ballet Festival this summer. For all those who are already in love with the art form, or for anyone curious to watch a dance performance in the flesh, this is set to be a truly magical event.
Last year, Fukuoka-born Machi Muto and Dutch born Frank van Tongeren, the organisers of the Fukuoka International Ballet Festival, spoke to Fukuoka Now to launch their idea. On a rare trip back to Japan, they spoke to us again to tell us what lies in store at this first-of-its-kind festival in Fukuoka.
Both Machi and Frank are seasoned professionals who exude poise, grace and enthusiasm as they discuss the ballet scene in Japan and how the idea of hosting an International Ballet Festival in Fukuoka was conceived. Ballet schools abound in Japan and the Japanese have a “superior knowledge” of dance; yet despite this keenness for ballet, the vast majority of large-scale performances in the country tend to be from foreign ballet companies and normally take place in Tokyo or Osaka. Noticing this, Frank suggested the idea of organising an international ballet festival in Fukuoka which would embrace both foreign and native talent in one theater.
The pair has visited Japan and Fukuoka in particular many times. Although Machi was born in Fukuoka, and it is indeed here where she started her ballet training, she became a student with the English National Ballet School at the age of 16. Since then, her dance career has taken her all over the world and both her and Frank have danced with The Norwegian National Ballet, the Hong Kong Ballet and are now soloists with the State Ballet of Georgia, where they currently live.
Frank and Machi’s travels led them to meet a range of other dancers, several of whom are originally from Fukuoka and began their dance training here, or who have some connection to the city. When Frank mentioned the idea of a ballet festival to be held in Fukuoka, the enthusiasm and eagerness to perform on a home stage shown by their Fukuokan dance colleagues was infectious and he and Machi knew they “had to organise this.”
Since Fukuoka Now last spoke to Machi and Frank, the line-up for the performance has been decided. When putting together the performers for the Festival the pair was approached by a number of dancers who had a “direct or indirect” link to Fukuoka. Despite having had the chance to perform in cities in Japan as part of touring ballets, several dancers were particularly enthused to seize the opportunity to perform at a ballet festival rooted in Fukuoka, as for them it is a chance to perform “at home.”
The line-up consists of 22 dancers, 12 of whom are Japanese and eight from Fukuoka itself; in total dancers and choreographers from nine different nationalities are involved in the festival. It is a love of dance and overwhelming desire to share their passion which seem to be the common thread amongst both dancers and organisers; one young couple contacted Frank and Machi asking to create a new piece to showcase at the festival, and it was this energy which Frank and Machi loved.
In addition to some of the dancers choreographing their own pieces for the festival, a choreographer from The Norwegian National Ballet and from the Dutch National Ballet respectively are creating brand-new work specifically for this recital. They will travel to Fukuoka to set and rehearse their pieces before they premiere here.
The pair hopes this show will offer something for everyone; for those who have never watched a ballet before, it will be a chance to see a world of dance in one evening; for young, aspiring dancers, it is an opportunity to see professional dance and inspire in them the drive to turn their hobby into a profession; and for the dancers participating, it is the chance to be part of something excitingly original, and pioneer new work on a new stage.
Creating this festival means that Frank and Machi are experiencing “the other side” of the dancing world. This is inevitably a “big challenge” yet one which they are embracing wholeheartedly and with unfailing enthusiasm. The encouragement from their fellow performers, some of whom had thought of creating “something similar but didn’t know how to” has continued to inspire the pair, and the recital will be comprised of two performances, one at the ACROS Fukuoka Symphony Hall in Tenjin and another at the Kitakyushu Performing Arts Center.
With no one professional ballet company in Fukuoka, a particular problem is locating an appropriate dance floor. This is essential so as to ensure the dancers do not sustain injury during the performances and the pair are currently exploring the possibility of importing a dance floor from abroad.
The repertoire will be a “mix of classical and contemporary” work, including the “world premier” of some pieces. Japan is often graced with recitals of the traditional and much-loved classical ballets, yet the Fukuoka International Ballet Festival will allow spectators to watch something which has “not been performed before.”
More than a show, the Fukuoka International Ballet Festival will push the boundaries of “just entertainment” and be a “creative platform”; it will be a hand-tailored performance fit for this “unique city”. By showcasing new choreography, Frank and Machi are “taking a risk”. In the same way The Royal Ballet or Paris Opera Ballet gained a name for itself by being among the first to perform some of the big, classical ballets, the Fukuoka International Ballet Festival strives to “contribute to the development of dance” by staging something brand new and unique to Fukuoka and Kitakyushu. This makes it a truly exciting event.
The Festival will also offer the unique opportunity for ballet students with a “serious interest” in dance to feed their “curiosity” by attending a classical ballet and modern workshop. These masterclasses aim to “bridge the gap” between amateur and professional-level dancing. Students will “learn from” some of the very dancers involved in the performances and Peter Leung, choreographer at the Dutch National Ballet, will be teaching contemporary dance at the masterclasses.
Frank notes that although he himself was lucky enough to be able to “focus on dancing” in Holland where he grew up and trained, the rigorous academic programme in Japan means that such a luxury is not always possible here. Despite being a “potential environment,” dance often has to take second place to scholastic commitments. The pair hopes these classes will “create an opportunity” for inspiration and growth.
This festival is for everyone though; it is an occasion for everybody to come together and bond over a love of art and dance. And if you’ve never watched a dance recital before? “Just do it… See what’s going to happen.” The chance to see such a varied performance from such internationally acclaimed dancers is a “wonderful experience” and the perfect way to enter into the magical world of ballet. If Machi and Frank’s enthusiasm is any indication of the show, it is sure to be a resounding success.
Nao Sakuma, 佐久間奈緒, born in Fukuoka, currently a principal dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet
Shoko Nakamura, 中村祥子, born in Fukuoka, currently a guest principal dancer with K-Ballet Company
Yuhui Choe, 崔由姫, born in Fukuoka, currently a first soloist with the Royal Ballet
Miharu Maki, 槇美晴, born in Fukuoka, currently a dancer with the Norwegian National Ballet
Miho Ogimoto, 荻本美穂, born in Fukuoka, currently a principal dancer with the Czech National Ballet
Yuka Kawazu, 河津由佳, born in Fukuoka, currently a dancer with the Theater ULM Ballet (choreographing)
Rie Aoyagi, 青柳理恵, born in Fukuoka, currently a dancer with the National Theater of Opera and Ballet ‘Oleg Danovski’
Machi Muto, 武藤万知, born in Fukuoka, currently a soloist dancer with Nina Ananiashvili’s State Ballet of Georgia
Yusuke Osozawa, 遅沢佑介, born in Tochigi, currently a principal dancer with K-Ballet Company
Yasuo Atsuji, 厚地康雄, born in Tochigi, currently a soloist dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet
Yonen Takano, 高野陽年, born in Nara, currently a soloist dancer with Nina Ananiashvili’s State Ballet of Georgia
Riho Sakamoto, 坂本莉穂, born in Osaka, currently a dancer with the Dutch National Ballet
Nehemiah Kish, from USA, currently a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet
Matthew Pawlicki-Sinclair, from USA, currently a coryphée dancer with the Dutch National Ballet
Yoel Carreño, from Cuba, currently a principal dancer with the Norwegian National Ballet
Sonia Vinograd, from Spain, currently a dancer with the Norwegian National Ballet
Andres Estevez, from Cuba, currently a dancer with BalletMET
Candice Adea, from the Phillipines, currently a dancer with BalletMET
Damien Nazabal, from France, currently a dancer with Theater ULM Ballet
Nutsa Chekurashvili, From Georgia, currently a soloist dancer at Nina Ananiashvili’s State Ballet of Georgia
Douwe Dekkers, from the Netherlands, currently a dancer with the Norwegian National Ballet
Frank van Tongeren, from The Netherlands, currently a soloist dancer at Nina Ananiashvili’s State Ballet of Georgia
*Cast and program may change due to unexpected accident or injuries
For more information, please visit http://www.fibf.org/
If anyone is interested in providing sponsorship for the festival, please see the official website.
Tickets will be on sale from February 20th 2016.
Fukuoka City Performance
• 7/27 (Wed.)
• 19:00~ (doors open: 18:30)
• Fukuoka Symphony Hall, ACROS Fukuoka
• 7/28 (Thu.)
• 19:00~ (doors open: 18:30)
• Kitakyushu Performing Arts Center (Large Hall)
• SS: ¥ 12,000, S: ¥ 10,000, A: ¥ 8,000, B: ¥ 6,000, C: ¥ 4,000 (reserved seating)
• Tickets available from:
– MandM, 092-751-8257 (Mon. ~ Fri.: 10:00~18:00)
– Ticket Pia, 0570-02-9999, http://t.pia.jp, Pcode: 449-637
– Lawson Ticket, 0570-084-008, http://l-tike.com, Lcode: 81599 (Fukuoka), 81600 (Kitakyushu)
– Seven Eleven
– Circle K Sunkus
– Mini Stop
– ACROS Fukuoka Ticket Office: 092-725-9112 *Fukuoka performance only
– Kitakyushu Performing Arts Center Ticket Office: 093-562-2655 *Kitakyushu performance only
• Young children (pre-elementary school) may not attend.
• If you are attending in a wheelchair, please contact M&M before purchasing your ticket.