Text by Evan McKie 

11 Questions with Japanese Dancers of the National Ballet of Canada

I would like to introduce you, my Chacott friends, to the beautiful Japanese colleagues I have at The National Ballet of Canada! The Canadian company has been home to excellent Japanese dancers like Yoko Inchino, Keichi Hirano and Stacey Shiori Minagawa, to name just a few! Here is some recent conversation I’ve had with some of our current Japanese members between rehearsals and performances! I hope you can see them all dancing live one day and in the meantime here is some info about each of them!

1.Favourite things about Toronto :

Naoya Ebe:  my favourite thing about Toronto is diversity. There are so many different cultures from all over the world that make it very interesting.
It is easy to get touch with any culture here (and enjoy many kinds of international cuisine!)
Miyoko Koyasu: My favourite thing about Toronto is that the big city and nature are both all together in one place. I grew up with rice fields, fireflies, and flat landscape with green trees and water. When I moved to Toronto, I thought I'd miss it very much but I discovered some parks that can bring me some quiet and fresh air in the middle of the city.
Kota Sato: Toronto is such cool city to live. It is very multicultural and also in our company there are dancers from around the whole world.
This city has good balance of “big-city” and nature, if I go to the Toronto Islands or parks it can help me relax and refresh.
Shino Mori: l quite like the size of city! It's comfortable and convenient for living. Not too big and not too small!
Laurynas Vejalis: There are so many beautiful parks in Toronto . I like sports so, sometimes I go to play with my friends and Toronto island has my favourite parks in the city. Also, people are so nice. When you just walk down the street , you might make new friends!

2. How did you decide to join the National Ballet of Canada?

Naoya Ebe:I decided to come to Toronto to attend Canada's National Ballet School when I was 15 years old. I decided to stay because of the city’s quality of life and of course the growing ballet company.  
Miyoko Koyasu: I received scholarships from Canada's National Ballet School and this first brought me to Canada! I liked NBoC's repertoire and variety of talented dancers. I was hired after two years as an apprentice with NBoC and here I am!
Kota Sato: I went to National Ballet School for 3 years before I joined the company. I watched every performance as a student and wanted to dance with this company. I'm happy to be part of this company and to create art together.
Shino Mori: I received scholarships from Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition to attend Canada's National Ballet School.  I had a lot of opportunities to see stages of the National Ballet of Canada there to find them quite attractive.  I decided to dance with them and had an audition to be an apprentice of the Company.
Laurynas Vejalis: The biggest reason is because of our repertoire , we have so many classical ballet pieces and also we take new productions almost every season .
Also I’m inspired by some of our great dancers everyday in class and rehearsal . There are so many things that I can learn from them and that's what gives me passion .

3.Dream Role or Favourite role to perform?

Naoya Ebe: I have a few favourite roles that I especially enjoy performing such as Albrecht in Giselle, Colas in La Fille mal gardée, Opus 19/The Dreamer by Jerome Robbins and alsoThe Second Detail by William Forsythe! We have such mixed repertoire!
Miyoko Koyasu: My dream role is Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. It has been my dream role since I can remember. Here we even dance Nureyev’s version!
Kota Sato: I really enjoyed performing Bluebird from Sleeping Beauty. It is a traditional ballet in this company and so many great dancers have performed it in the past. That gave me a special push.I have so many dream roles I would love to do! Especially dramatic ballets! I like acting and experiencing different lives onstage.
Shino Mori: My favorite role is Italian princess in Swan Lake and birds from James Kudelka's The Four Seasons!
Laurynas Vejalis: My dream role is Onegin . I love every single scene and role in this ballet especially the dream/mirror pas de deux. I can get emotional when I see it. We are doing it right now in Toronto!

4. “The thing about I sometimes miss about Japan”

Naoya Ebe: Every time I go back home to visit I must have great Ramen and Yakiniku!
In Toronto I cook Japanese food quite often, but there are very few Japanese groceries stores. I don't know what I would do without rice.
Miyoko Koyasu: I miss my family and friends the most. But sometimes I do miss the food and the distinct natural beauty of Japan.
Kota Sato: I miss fresh sea food.. Toronto is not a coastal city, so it is hard to get nice fresh sushi.
Shino Mori: My family and Japanese food!
Laurynas Vejalis: I cook Japanese food really often but still it tastes different , and I miss my Japanese friends from ballet school or junior high school . I love talking about old memories with them . I miss spending time with my family too. I'm happy just being with them .

5. What inspired you to dance?

Naoya Ebe: I was actually a gymnast before I started ballet and it was my mother's idea to start me in ballet to improve my gymnastics but I got hooked on ballet!!
Miyoko Koyasu: Music of course but also when I can feel emotionally connected between dancers and audience.
Kota Sato: When I hear the music! It puts me in the mood and make me want to start moving!
Shino Mori: Since I was a little, I was always dancing at home. I guess it came naturally.
Laurynas Vejalis: When I was 4 years old , my mom took me to ballet class for the first time and I really liked dancing with music but I didn't think about ballet seriously yet.
When I was 10 , I tried my first competition . My performance was terrible and I saw so many talented man dancers in that competition. I was so depressed and I realised that I should work hard and think about what I want to achieve . I actually think that was really important moment of my life!

6. Who is your favourite dance idol?

Naoya Ebe: I don't really have a dance idol but there are many dancers that are inspire me all over the world
Miyoko Koyasu: Viviana Durante. She has always been my Aurora and she is my idol.
Kota Sato: I grew up watching all the ballet videos so it is very hard to pick one. But I watched lots of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tetsuya Kumakawa for sure. I love watching dancers who have special charismatic character and charm.
Shino Mori: My favorite dance idol is Alina Cojocaru!
Laurynas Vejalis: One and only , Baryshnikov .

7. When do you love your job the most?

Naoya Ebe: Working hard everyday to prepare for shows and when I am performing on stage!
Miyoko Koyasu: When I'm able to freely and fully enjoy dancing and to give away everything I can.
Kota Sato: When I'm performing and feel the one-of-a-kind energy on stage!
Shino Mori: When I feel the work and progress (and even rehabilitation from injuries) finally paying off!
Laurynas Vejalis: When I go on stage. I think every single dancer will answer same as me. That's why we work and why we can deal with pain . I love performing at our beautiful Four Seasons Centre and I want to perform all over the world and share our moments with everybody!

8. If you could describe your individual dancing personality or movement quality in one word or sentence what would it be?

Naoya Ebe:  “jumping freely”
Miyoko Koyasu: It’s hard to describe…but I feel “poised”.
Kota Sato: Passion and Energy.
Shino Mori: Joy
Laurynas Vejalis: I think I would choose the word " Excitement " . I don't really know how do I look on stage , but I always try to make people exited to watch the performance . In ballet , there are so many productions and in one production , there are so many roles and different characters . We need to change our dancing style depending on the production , but whatever I do , I believe that I can move people's hearts in so many ways  .

9. What is something that your fans really might not know about you but might find interesting?

Naoya Ebe: that I bike everyday to work even in winter
Miyoko Koyasu: I like cooking, baking and taking a bath to relax!!! But I LOVE sci-fi and thriller movies!
Kota Sato: I like to teach ballet and I teach class sometime in Toronto or in Japan.
Shino Mori: I have a twin sister.
Laurynas Vejalis: I really love soccer , I support the team "Chelsea " . I've been to a few stadiums to watch the match , I play soccer games sometimes and when I used to live in London , (England) we went to Pub to watch the match almost every weekend . That was my routine. If want to watch a game , British pub is the best .

10. How do you feel about the roles you are performing this fall/winter in Toronto? What characters are they and what makes them special to you?

Naoya Ebe:  Prince Charming in Cinderella and Lensky in Onegin. Cinderella is very demanding and challenging ballet technically and that really satisfies me to dance. Lensky is special to me because I find the role so sensitive to perform.
Miyoko Koyasu: I've been performing in Cinderella, Onegin and The Nutcracker this fall/winter season. I've danced in corps, soloist, and principal roles, for a total of 10 different characters. They are all very different characters and they take different energies. Dancing a soloist role in Cinderella or a principal role in Onegin like “Olga” are both new experiences for me, but it doesn't mean one is more important than the other, as every role I dance is very special to me.
Kota Sato: I'm performing in Cinderella and Onegin. These ballet has great story. It is fun to be in the different character and carry the scene.
In Nutcracker I'm going to perform Snow trio for the first time. It is very beautiful, strong pas de trio. I am very exited to perform it.
Shino Mori: Unfortunately I have been dedicating my time to injury rehabilitation.
Laurynas Vejalis: I am doing Onegin as a "Pesant man"  and I just Finished Cinderella as a " Bachelors " . Peasant man is really fun role , he is just happy and full of energy . In Onegin , most of scenes are really dark and dramatic , but the peasant scenes are peaceful and joyful scenes . There are so many jumps for men , which I love! Bachelors are really cool guys ,classy and old fashioned from the 1930s . We are wearing tuxedos and having a party with the Prince and Cinderella . I really like the style of dance and mood . It's really jazzy .

11. What dance/sport/or beauty product do you use the most as a dancer everyday? What brand is it?

Naoya Ebe: I usually use basic and simple wear like UNIQLO
Miyoko Koyasu: I have a quite a few Chacott bodysuits. I wear them on special occasions or when I need a little pick-me-up. I have one designed by Shoko Nakamura that is especially my favourite.
Kota Sato: I love UNIQLO-style clothes for work. They are easily washable materials and comfortable.
Shino Mori: I always buy Chacott warm-ups and leotards when I am in Japan!!!
Laurynas Vejalis: I don't have many products for ballet , but I always use T-shirts from  “under Armour " . They are light and comfy and breathe well . Also I try to drink protein everyday , recently I got protein from "BioSteel"  in Canada. It tastes so good and there are so many vitamins with the protein .  From Chaccott , I always buy tights . They are just so comfortable and enhance line and shape of my legs !

image001.png NAOYA EBE, Principal Dancer
Born: Tokyo, Japan
Trained: Canada’s National Ballet School
Joined: 2006
Principal Dancer since: 2015
image002.png MIYOKO KOYASU, Corps de Ballet
Born: Chiba, Japan
Trained: Hashimoto Ballet and Shimada Ballet Institute in Japan and Canada’s National Ballet School
Joined: 2011
Corps de Ballet since: 2013
image003.png KOTA SATO, Corps de Ballet
Born: Tokyo, Japan
Trained: Shimura Ballet School in Japan and Canada’s National Ballet School
Joined: 2012
Corps de Ballet since: 2014
image004.png SHINO MORI, Corps de Ballet
Born: Gunma, Japan
Trained: Reiko Yamamoto Ballet School in Japan and Canada’s National Ballet School
Joined: 2008
Corps de Ballet since: 2009
image005.png LAURYNAS VEJALIS, Corps de Ballet
Born: Vilnius, Lithuania
Trained: Austrian Ballet School in Japan and The Royal Ballet School in England
Joined as Corps de Ballet: 2015
all photos by Karolina Kuras-