Japanese Ballet Dancers Shine at Youth America Grand Prix

Jiji Press
From left: Leon Yusei Sai, Kako Nakata, Yuzuki Okubo, Anne Takahashi and Shinji Mitoma pose with their Youth America Grand Prix trophies in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday.

Young Japanese dancers performed well at this year’s Youth America Grand Prix, one of the world’s foremost international ballet competitions for junior dancers, the results of which were announced in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday local time.

Shinji Mitoma, 11, from Yokohama won first prize in the classical dance category for boys in the pre-competitive age division for children who were aged 9 to 11 as of Jan. 1 this year, the division for the youngest competitors in the event.

In the same division, Leon Yusei Sai, 12, who lives in the United States, won second place in both the classical and contemporary ballet categories for boys; Anne Takahashi, 11, from Saitama placed second in the classical dance category for girls; and Kako Nakata, 11, from Chiba placed third in the contemporary dance category for girls.

Mitoma performed a solo from “Coppelia” with elegance.

“I danced with gratitude for the people who supported me. There were some moments that I wasn’t satisfied with, but I could recover from them with my facial expressions and other expressions. I feel very good,” Mitoma, a sixth-grade elementary school student, said after the award ceremony.

In the competition’s junior age division for children aged 12 to 14, Yuzuki Okubo won second place in the classical dance category for girls.

Okubo gave a spectacular performance of a solo from “Coppelia,” dancing with rich expressions and precise poses. The audience erupted in applause when she nailed the final pirouette.

“The audience in the United States become very excited, and I was very nervous. I tried to make every move carefully so that it wouldn’t become messy,” Okubo said with a smile. She has been accepted by the Royal Ballet School in Britain.