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Houston Ballet principal Yuriko Kajiya recalls pandemic challenges

Photo by Amitava Sarkar (2018). Houston Ballet
Houston Ballet Principal Yuriko Kajiya as Odette in Stanton Welch’s “Swan Lake.”

Tours by overseas ballet companies are resuming after a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. The United States’ Houston Ballet performed “Swan Lake” on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30 at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan hall in Taito Ward, Tokyo, on its first-ever visit to Japan.

Because the United States enforced strict anti-virus measures, the company was unable to perform in theaters for a year and a half from March 2020. During that period, members of the company performed, rehearsed and created online.

Looking back, principal dancer Yuriko Kajiya said: “It is important to interact, express emotions and share the atmosphere with each other and also with the audience. So, it was hard for the dancers not to be able to do that.”

Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, some dancers even left the company.

The version of “Swan Lake” performed in Tokyo was choreographed by the company’s artistic director, Stanton Welch. Kajiya danced the roles of Odette, Odile and a maiden who is not in the standard version. Recalling her feelings prior to the show, Kajiya said, “I was hoping the audience would see a new side of me from the performance.”

Tokyo was the company’s first tour after resuming its stage activities. “The audience’s reactions differ depending on location,” Kajiya said. “A change of environment is stimulating, and is an opportunity to absorb many things.”