Balda Started Dancing in Japanese Manner

Three times the Motley Fool of the Bolshoi Theatre (in “Romeo and Juliet”, the “Swan Lake” and “A Legend of Love”), The Little Grape and Cipollino, the Golden Idol and the Chinese Doll, The Little Humpbacked Horse and the Horseman, the Harlequin and Balda, Ivashka and the Peruvian – it looks as if someone up there had fun playing patience of Morikhiro Ivata’s parts, who is inter alia the only foreigner at the main music theatre of the country. In the strict hierarchy of the Bolshoi Theatre Ivata would never get roles of princes and romantic heroes, therefore Ivata-San puts all his substantial temperament, all the passion of his dance in small parts. Small, but very dramatic. Exclusively for “ITI-Info” Morikhiro Ivata tells us how he entered the Bolshoi Theatre troupe, met the great Ulanova and Semenova and reveals what he is staging as a choreographer now.
I made a final decision to devote myself to ballet around the age of sixteen. I had worked half-heartedly before. I could avoid practising at the bar for weeks. And when I was sixteen, I took part in a contest and was impressed how technically strong my peers were, what miraculous things they could do. And I started… having problems at school, since I practised ballet from morning till night.
At that time the Soviet Ballet Institute was established in Tokyo where excellent teachers from Moscow Academic School of Art (MAHU) came. I entered the said institute and got an opportunity of undergoing a training course at Moscow School. My parents thought it was great, however they were extremely worried: a closed country, no telephone talks unless you ordered a call at the post office and so on. But being engaged in ballet, they respected the Russian ballet very much. No, there wasn’t an abundance of everything, and the food wasn’t the one I was used to. But I didn’t aim at finding a country where I could lead a life of comfort, I aimed at mastering real ballet. The life in Japan is really pretty, bright and interesting, but the level of ballet in Russia is much higher. The difference between the Russian and Japanese ballet is colossal. In Russia ballet is regarded as an art, in Japan it is viewed more formally, as a hobby. On the other hand, it’s good for me. Getting in Russia what I was looking for, I continued treating ballet as a hobby. That means, as my favourite pastime. At the same time a lot of dancers at the Bolshoi Theatre treat ballet as work: one should attend a class, not forget to get registered, receive a salary. And I am still happy. Even when I just attend a class, even when I have a problem.
After the training the director of the “Russian Ballet” Vyacheslav Gordeev offered me to work with him. He treated foreigners very well, apart from me he had a Japanese female dancer in the troupe. Later she married a Russian and their son is learning ballet now. I worked with Gordeev for three years and met my future wife in his troupe. In 1994 we understood that we were expecting a baby. And had to make a decision: the “Russian Ballet” often went on tours and I wanted to spend more time with my wife and child. My wife’s parents live in Perm and mine – even farther, so we could count on ourselves only. I made up my mind to leave the theatre and look for a stable job in Moscow. I was young, a bit impudent and had almost nothing to lose, so I decided to try entering the Bolshoi Theatre. I turned for help to the late Sofia Golovkina, the head of my school, she addressed Grigorovich and while the issue was under discussion, I got a pass to be admitted to classes. It made my life much easier as I had been unable to come in the theatre before and had had to wait for hours outside, until a pass had been brought to me (being young, I regarded it as an adventure).
Soon both the country and the theatre changed. The guidance of the Bolshoi Theatre was taken by Vladimir Vasiliev who knew me well (I got the Grand-Prize at the “Arabesque” contest where he was head of the jury). I was accepted in the troupe as a trainee, and as a foreigner I had to pay for my training. I had no money, so I asked whether I could participate in the internal contest of the theatre to be included in the main troupe instead of trainees. At that time the Bolshoi Theatre was adopting a contract system and I received an offer to sign a contract. So, I became a soloist in 1996, by leaps and bounds, speaking in the Bolshoi terms.
Of course, due to my physique I did not play those romantic parts I had dreamt of and could have played: my technique and potential would have allowed it. Being young, I suffered a lot from not being able to dance everything I wanted and could. But I don’t regret now. After all, “there are no small parts”. Everyone strives to dance the main parts, but the main parts are not always the best in ballet. Whoever I am, I contribute to the performance.
My work with the Bolshoi Theatre is the main stimulus for me to live here. It’s not event the point that there is no theatre like this in the whole world but that it really is a temple of art. Perhaps, it was the last theatre, keeping up the traditions of classic ballet. Unfortunately, time inevitably moves on and the theatre I admired in my childhood exists no longer. The classic repertoire is still there, the “Swan Lake”, and “Spartacus”, and the “Sleeping Beauty” are on, but the attitude towards it has changed completely. I value communication with dancers of the elder generation and will try to hand over at least a piece of this knowledge to the next generation. I met Ulanova, attended classes taught by Semenova, Struchkova, Lavrovsky who I had superb relationship with. Each of them added their own individuality to the dance. Today we see beautiful bodies, excellent technique, crazy turnout, lift, pretty faces. And before the internal filling was more important. Now the choreographer tells the dancer what position to take; and before everything started with a conversation on the development of the plot and the main idea. It is more important to complicate the technique now, to make three turnovers instead of the usual two, it is even better to invent an extraordinary spectacular movement which has never existed before. Such approach has its advantages but I treat it rather as aerobics or gymnastics, it disagrees with my understanding of the dance. Unfortunately, as a choreographer I am compelled to work quickly. And then I scold myself seeing that my dancers have not really comprehended what I sought.
At the moment I’m moving Vladimir Vasiliev’s ballet “Balda” onto the stage of the Satz Children Musical Theatre, where I found a surprisingly worthful troupe and a good atmosphere. I myself have danced as Balda and other characters at the Bolshoi Theatre despite the fact that I’m not a tall blue-eyed blonde man.
Vladimir Vicktorovich did not pay that much attention to appearance as to the essence and… saw Balda in me. I really like being a ballet master now: it’s difficult, scary and you often do not know what you will eventually come to, but it’s very interesting.
Globally, I do not model my future in any way, I prefer to deal with tasks the life constantly offers. For instance, I never thought I would work with the Bolshoi Theatre but have been working with it for sixteen years now. Our children live the lives of common Russian children: they went to kindergarten, then started school. At home I only speak Japanese to them. Unfortunately, I have not taught them to write in Japanese, but if they want to go to Japan, they have the basis – the language. My younger daughter immediately said she would not learn ballet and got interested in music. And my elder daughter takes ballet classes but in my opinion does not strive after it. I don’t want to press her, I suppose it’s more important to have one’s own distinct wish. She will turn sixteen soon – the age when I decided on my wishes.

Written down by Olga Kaniskina

Morikhiro Ivata. A ballet soloist, a choreographer. Born in Yokohama (Japan) in the family of ballet dancers. Got primary choreographic education at his Father’s school “Ivata-Ballet”. In 1990-91 trained at Moscow Choreographic School (now Moscow State Academy of Choreography) with Alexander Bondarenko’s class. In 1991 became a soloist of “The Russian Ballet” troupe. A soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre. A choreographer and director of the ballets “The Ascent of Mount Fuji” and “Tamashi” (“The Spirit”). Awarded an Order of Friendship. Awarded the first prize of the All-Japanese Competition Among Ballet Dancers in Tokyo, the grand prize and Baryshnikov Prize at the Open Competition of Ballet Dancers “Arabesque” in Perm, the first prize of the International Competition Among Ballet Dancers in Moscow, the grand prize and “The Best Choreographer Prize” at the Balanchine and Chabukiani International Festival in Tbilisi.

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