“Looking at my last 15 years’ work, I see it as a series of excitements,” Tetsuya Kumakawa told The Japan Times.
Now 42, the Hokkaido native was in the prime of his dance life in 1999 when he left his position as a much-loved principal at the Royal Ballet in London to form K-Ballet in Tokyo the following year — a company he has led ever since, as well as becoming artistic director of the city’s splendid Bunkamura Orchard Hall in 2012.
Since then, K-Ballet has built an unparalleled reputation, and thanks to the ballet boom it’s fueled, Japanese dancers now win many prizes at the top-notch Prix de Lausanne competition for as yet unpaid students aged 15-18 — the annual Swiss-run event where Kumakawa’s career took off when he won Japan’s first-ever gold medal in 1989.
Speaking ahead of the opening in Tokyo of “Exhibition of Tetsuya Kumakawa and K-Ballet,” he said, “Everything’s happened naturally as I’ve steadily piled up things I wanted to do. So in this exhibition I hope people will be able to learn about K-Ballet and see where it’s heading.”
To date, the company has staged 11 original works, and visitors can see costumes, set models and pieces from them all along with items from Kumakawa’s collection, including early footage of him dancing, that gold medal he won in 1989, and an autographed photo of Russian legend Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950).
The exhibition also introduces “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” a full-scale production by K-Ballet Youth that was established in 2013 for dancers aged under 22. Regrettably, however, it comes as Kumawaka recently announced he is canceling all his spring-season performances with K-Ballet as he undergoes cervical traction for a neck condition.
So as we wait for his hopefully rapid return to the spotlight, this is a marvelous and timely opportunity to share in a darling of ballet’s past, present and future.
“Exhibition of Tetsuya Kumakawa and K-Ballet” runs Feb. 26-March 9 at the Matsuya Ginza department store in Tokyo. “Cinderella” by K-Ballet runs March 18-22 and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” runs April 4 and 5 — both at Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo. For details, visit www.k-ballet.co.jp.