Akira Akiyama © Mizuho Hasegawa _


“I never look too far ahead”

Profession wise, the First soloist at The Tokyo Ballet focuses only on the here and now rather than the future. Yet she dreams to travel and visit many countries around the world when the pandemic will be close to an end. From studying ballet in Portugal to dancing Kitri in a streamed performance of “Don Quixote”, here she tells everything to Alessandro Bizzotto

Akira Akiyama in Cavalry Halt © Kanagawa Kenmin Hall – Kiyonori Hasegawa

She has been a First soloist with The Tokyo Ballet for fifteen months, more or less. Akira Akiyama already invites superlatives from everyone who sees her dancing.

After beginning her ballet training in Japan, she moved to Portugal and to Italy before going home and joining the leading Japanese ballet company.

During the last holiday season, she impressed everyone with her powerful and polished performance as Kitri in “Don Quixote” streamed on demand. Today, far from becoming big headed by her success, the rising star of The Tokyo Ballet unreservedly accepts to talk about her life and her artistic dreams while being on tour.

When did you enter The Tokyo Ballet School?

I was twelve at that time.

Akira Akiyama in Don Quixote with Yasuomi Akimoto © Kiyonori Hasegawa

Were you a competitive student?

I don’t think I was competitive, but I did not like being unable to do something, or being given the same instructions by teachers several times. I did not compare myself with others, I simply made efforts to become able to do what I had to do or what I couldn’t do.

Akira Akiyama in Don Quixote © Kiyonori Hasegawa

You finished your studies in Lisbon, right? Why did you leave and come to Europe?

When I was a senior high school student, I used to go to school in the morning like a normal student, and I had ballet classes only at night. I sort of started to feel that I wanted to spend more time dancing and studying ballet. When I thought of my future and tried to imagine it, I thought it would be better for me to study something more than just classical ballet… in order to expand my horizons! At that time, there were not many boarding schools for ballet students in Japan. And I realized I had to come to Europe to have more and better choices, if I really wanted to study ballet all day. I have always been happy with my decision to come to Europe – I still am.

Do you still speak some Portuguese?

At the ballet school in Portugal my teacher was Russian, and we all used to speak to one another in English. After one year of study there, I joined a ballet company in Italy, where I started speaking Italian. Today, when I text my friends there, I write in Italian. The last time The Tokyo Ballet went on tour to Italy, I met my friends and spoke in Italian. Since the pandemic began, I cannot meet those friends at all, so I am afraid I am losing my Italian… I want to start studying the language again.

Why didn’t you stay in Europe…

Subscribe or buy this issue