Ballerina Morishita still dancing for world peace

by Ayako Suga

Kyodo

Leading ballet dancer Yoko Morishita, who was born in Hiroshima three years after the city’s atomic bombing, says her mission is to dance for peace.

“I believe it is my mission to offer prayers for peace and to continue to dance,” said the 64-year-old, who has led the Matsuyama Ballet, a major troupe based in Tokyo, since 2001.

Morishita said her grandmother, who survived the Aug. 6, 1945, A-bombing near ground zero but never forgot to enjoy life, had a tremendous influence on her values and way of life.

“I learned the preciousness of human life and the strong spirit of never giving up through the way my grandmother lived her life,” Morishita said in a recent interview.

At the same time, she also came to believe that no one should again become a victim of an atomic attack.

Her grandmother, Haruyo, was 44 when the United States leveled Hiroshima at the end of World War II. She suffered such severe burns to her body in the blast that she was taken for dead and lined up with corpses over which Buddhist sutras were chanted.

Although her grandmother managed to survive the catastrophe, the burns left keloid scars on her face, hands and legs, and she was hardly able to move the fingers of her left hand as the burns had fused their skin together.

But Morishita said she never heard her grandmother, who died in 1980 at age 79, complain about the atrocity.

She looked after the young Morishita on behalf of her mother, who was running a restaurant, and her father, a company employee. Morishita said her grandmother smiled all the time and often told her that she felt blessed to be alive.

Morishita was 3 when she started ballet. She has performed as a top ballerina in Japan and abroad, and is still active.

She said she always tells the members of the Matsuyama Ballet that they should “give a performance that can encourage people to take each other’s hands and help each other” because she believes that love can be the start for achieving world peace and abolishing nuclear weapons.

Her performances have offered encouragement to victims of the quake-tsunami calamities that struck Tohoku on March 11, 2011.

In May last year, Morishita played the principal role in an adaptation of “Coppelia,” in which the classic comic ballet was rewritten as a story about people in a town wrecked by a major disaster and their efforts to reconstruct it.

After performing in Tokyo this May, Morishita said she received a letter from a woman from Miyagi, one of the worst-hit prefectures, saying: “I am very happy as people have started to forget the earthquake disaster.”

Morishita said she hopes that people can share the feelings of victims through ballet and help them move forward. She is looking to perform “Coppelia” in Tohoku as well, someday.

Raised in Hiroshima until age 12, Morishita saw how many atomic bomb victims worked hard to get back on their feet in defiance of unbearable suffering.

“We will never forget either the atomic bombings or the earthquake disaster,” Morishita said, referring to the atomic attack on Nagasaki. “I hope to convey to people a message of hope and courage through ballet.”