Yasuomi Akimoto in Béjart's 'Le Sacre du printemps' © Kiyonori Hasegawa
People

Yasuomi Akimoto about his life, his childhood memories and his work ethic

He is proud of his Russian technique, he is not afraid of pain and tiredness, and he never forgets he is playing a character when he is on stage. Yet he is not competitive and he would even be up for trying and doing a Broadway musical. The Principal dancer of the Tokyo Ballet talks to ALESSANDRO BIZZOTTO about his life, his childhood memories and his work ethic, and reveals him what he does to ease pain and even how often he tidies up his house.

As I meet him in the backstage after a performance of Maurice Béjart’s “The Kabuki”, in which he has just danced the lead, he sits down with the stars in his eyes – his body might be tired yet the adrenaline of the performance still animates his voice and his look. Yasuomi Akimoto takes a deep breath before telling me, “I feel empty. It always happens after dancing ‘The Kabuki’ – it is like having just a body, but not a brain nor a soul. It is difficult to articulate it clearly…”. Is it such a tough role? “Yes, it is. I’d say it is even tougher than prince Siegfried in ‘Swan Lake’!”

Yasuomi Akimoto in ‘The Nutcracker’ © Kiyonori Hasegawa

The day before – We meet for the first time in a hot afternoon, less than two hours before the daily class of the Tokyo Ballet. Yasuomi Akimoto looks quite shy at the outset, and extremely polite.

Born in Kanagawa, Japan, he studied for six years at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, where he graduated too. He has been a Principal of the Tokyo Ballet for four years now. A finalist at the Moscow International Ballet Competition in 2005, he had won also the second prize at The Russian Open Ballet Competition “Arabesque 2014”.

Yasuomi Akimoto in ‘Remains of a Cloud’ © Shoko Matsuhashi

We start talking about his childhood and his training in Russia, and I immediately realize he can fill our conversation with very interesting details.

Yasuomi Akimoto in ‘Le Corsaire’ © Kiyonori Hasegawa
Yasuomi Akimoto in ‘La Bayadère’ © Bernd Weissbrod

 Why did you choose to leave Japan at 12 and to join the Bolshoi Ballet School in Moscow?

I started studying ballet when I was only three… just for fun. When I was seven my parents were told I was gifted and I could become a professional dancer: that’s why they started looking for a good school for me. So, I joined a Russian school in Tokyo – I had my first professional approach to ballet there, with several Russian teachers. More than a teacher started recommending me to go to Russia: I should study in Tokyo for six more months, they said me, and then go to Russia in order to have the best possible training. I was ten at that time and I had no idea about what was going on – my teachers and my parents had several conversations about it and my future and, when the time to choose what to do came, my dad encouraged me to go and not to be scared. I had never been in another country before, nor far from home, yet they sent me to Moscow. Furthermore, when I take a decision, I am quite stubborn and I go for it: I wanted to be a professional dancer

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