Maki Nakagawa is the principal of the Finnish National Ballet. She is important talent in northern Europe and her expression is grace and charming.
She studied ballet in Mito Ballet Institute. Mito city is in Eastern Japan, hence is close to Fukushima. The Institute was damaged by the earthquake on 11th March seriously. In this spring, Ms. Nakagawa organized the charity performance, National Ballet Gala for Japan.
By Yukihiko YOSHIDA* (Tokyo)
Dance Critic and Dance Researcher
Q. How was the charity gala the other day?
A. I cannot forget the shock that the news gave me that day. I was just shocked at the fact that I could not do anything other than look at the incredible catastrophe. I suffered from my powerlessness that I cannot help anybody from the debris, even if I dance. There was nothing that I could do, when I thought about what I could do for them. And we designed for the charity performance, National Ballet Gala for Japan, which took place in just two weeks from that time. It was incredibly busy to organize everything, from the program to flier, but maybe I was saved because of that busyness. Once I thought of the affected area, it was suffering for me to realize that I live easily within a safe area. But while I spent hardworking days – cutting the time even to sleep – I began to think that I have to live stronger.
The actual performance was an especially heartwarming one, and we had invited guests such as Friedemann Vogel and Barbora Kohoutkavá. We cannot help wish that not only donations, but also cooperation by numbers of people, their thoughts, and wishes reach the people in the affected area. Also, not only limited to my colleagues and friends, but even people passing by helped us. I deeply appreciate such a thoughtful attitude, and I am proud of Japan, and of being Japanese.
La Bayadere – Finnish National Ballet©Sakari Viika
Q. Mito Ballet Institute, where you studied before, was also affected, but what did you think about this disaster?
A. First of all, it was great that all the students and teachers were safe. Now they are having lessons in a temporary space, but I was relieved that the children were all okay. Although the memorable place where I grew up disappeared, the building can just be rebuilt again. In fact, the new studio can be opened by the beginning of next year, at the earliest. On this occasion, I would like to remind myself the thought by my former teacher, Tatsuo Kasuya, and support the restart of Mito Ballet Institute.
Q. There are plenty of problems in Japan’s future, such as Fukushima, energy issues, and recovery. It is becoming another period from the one when you were dancing in Japan, but what would you like to convey as an artist?
A. I hesitate to make professional comments on recovery issues such as the nuclear power plant, but I have thought about life and death more than anything else since this catastrophe. A number of precious lives were easily laid away… It is a miracle to live a life. And I noticed it is art that can reach and heal people’s minds which suffer from despair and anxiety, and that can be the power to find the light. What I would like to convey would change depending on pieces and characters that I produce, but I will make an effort in wishing that people find my spirit to work on the living stage.
Q. You came back and have stayed in Japan since June, but was there anything that you found? What do you think about Fukushima?
A. Honestly, it was more normal than I had expected. Of course, I found marks of the earthquake, such as houses covered with plastic sheets, broken walls and roads, and jumped-out manholes, but I was amazed that people were living much more cheerfully than I had expected. I admired the regeneration of human beings in a three-month period. The dangers of radioactivity are well known also in Finland, but a general impression is that Finland, which does not have many natural disasters, is a different case; although countries such as Japan, where earthquakes often occur, should abolish nuclear power plants as soon as possible. Personally, I think abandoning nuclear power generation is necessary. In Finland, small demonstrations are taking place, the Green Party displays anti-nuclear posters, and the search for a new energy plan is going forward. So I look forward to seeing how it goes.
Q. I would like to hear about ballet in Finland, but how is the Finnish National Ballet like?
A. I have been in a company for ten years, but its atmosphere rapidly changed after Kenneth Greve took a role of director. The number of foreign employees increased, and the generation of dancers became much younger. Since the director himself is young and spends a lot of time in the studio, it has become a more energetic company. Although there is a slight competition amongst company members, it is a good environment where we can cooperate together. Fortunately, there is stable support from the nation so that we can communicate with great choreographers and pieces. But the Finnish company members who joined in the company without foreign experience may not have a sense of how it is a fortunate environment.
La Bayadere – Finnish National Ballet©Sakari Viika
Q. In Finland, they started to perform Swan Lake from quite an early period in the world. What is the public’s response to this?
A. I think it has been rooted in this country as a theatrical culture. There are not as many halls as in Japan, there is only one ballet company, and there are not many guest performances from other companies in Finland, so that necessarily it becomes that a ballet equals an opera house. But even top-class guest performers don’t fill the hall. The audience does not follow star artists or passionately support young talents, but I always find a warm audience. However, the classical works are much more popular than contemporary pieces, so it seems that people try to involve new generations, lowering the wall of the opera house.
Q. What do you think has nurtured Finnish ballet and ballet culture? Is there anything that can be a hint for Japanese, Asian, or world ballet?
A. It is the ninety-year anniversary for Finnish ballet this year. I feel ashamed that I haven’t particularly thought about such a long history. It is possibly the pride of this small country in Europe, which became independent in a century that it made a rapid cultural development…
Q. How did you feel when you were appointed for principle dancer?
A. I was really astonished, like “is it me becoming a principle?” I was really happy and proud of it, but I was surprised more than that. Now I owe more responsibility, but I am enjoying this time as one of the most brilliant moments in my life.
Q. Which performance do you like? What kind of piece would you like to perform?
A. I like both classic and modern performances, but I like dramatic ones. For example, Juliet is one of the characters that I would like to perform for full acts. There are many pieces of Kyilian and Ek that I would like to perform.
Q. Could you talk about something important amongst what you have learned in Japan before your departure?
A. My teacher, Kasuya, taught me how I should be as a human being, before being a dancer. There wouldn’t be myself now if I hadn’t met him. It would have been financially tough to do ballet in Japan, so graduation from high school was one of my promises with Kasuya. I felt it was just a waste of time since I wanted to study only ballet abroad at that time. But it was a really big support for me to have developed my passion and decisions during three years of high school, in order to live in foreign countries afterwards. I really appreciate my teacher Kasuya for his having understood my nature and giving me appropriate advice.
Vaslav Nijinsky : Le Sacre du Printemps – Finnish National Ballet©Sakari Viika
Q. How was the NDT life? Why did you move to Finland after having danced in Holland?
A. While I was at NDT School, I joined in the performance as a replacement of an injured dancer, but I wasn’t a company member. It was a company called INTRODANS for which I performed for a year after graduation. During this time, Jorma Uotinen, who was FNB director at that time, happened to see our performance and hired me away from there. I wanted to perform classical works as well, so that’s why I moved to FNB.
Q. How was your first performance of Giselle choreographed by Sylvie Guillem in Paris?
A. I have been quite attracted to Guillem’s powerful energy. I was one of the group dancers, but that stage was almost like a living creature. Guillem had so much energy that I almost forgot to be on the stage. I remember that it was succeeding moments of being moved. Later on, she rehearsed as Milta for the reproduction in Helsinki, but her motivation toward the piece was impressive. I physically felt how I should be as a professional, and it was a great time for me.
Q. How did you find yourself when you performed L’Elu for the reconstruction of Vaslav Nijinsky’s “Le sacre du printemp,” by Milicnet Hodoson and Ken Archer?
A. I was nervous since it was the first important task in Helsinki. I really struggled with the complicated music by Stravinsky. I remember I was always bringing a paper with me that notated the step to memorize it. The last solo, which consists of one hundred jumps, was like a challenge for the limit of my stamina. It was physically tough, but in the action of that performance I experienced some psychic-state that surpassed the fear for death; something like delight or strange excitement. It was an unforgettable experience.
Q. What types of artists do you like?
A. In any field, I like something beautiful and simple rather than something eccentric. I am attracted to lively artists.
Q. What kind of dancer do you like?
Although it is a trivial answer, I yearn for a dancer with heart, whose performance I wish to see again.
Q. Could you let me know your favorite repertoire?
A. Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Onegin, Manon… I like some dramatic pieces. I like works of Kyilian and Ek as well. It’s difficult to answer since there are so many!
Q. What would you like to do from now on? Is there anything particular that you would like to do in Japan or Asia?
A. I am very interested in the Gyrotonic that I encountered last summer. I would like to study it as much as time allows me. I don’t have particularly concrete plans, but I would like to do my best to be an active professional dancer.
Finnish National Ballet, «La Sylphide»
© 2011 Danza Ballet