Natalia

Tokyo's Many Ballet Troupes

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The recent visit to Washington, DC, of Tokyo's New National Theater Ballet troupe (Asami Maki, AD) has spurred me to explore the multiple classical ballet companies in that ballet-loving capital of the Far East. The Kennedy Center run of NNTB reinforced a facsination that began when I first visited Japan one year ago and commenced subscribing to the gorgeous Japanese monthly Dance Magazine.

First Theme: The Ballet Troupes

Japanese BalletTalkers and others in the know, please help me out. Below is my list of Tokyo-based troupes with classical repertoire. How would you rank one against the other? Does each company have defining qualities? They are listed below in no particular order...just off the top of my head.

Tokyo Ballet (most of us have heard of this one - lots of stars, such as Yukari Saito & Mizuka Ueno)

Matsuyama Ballet (known in the 70s/80s as the company w/ Yoko Morishita & T. Shimizu...but are they still around?)

New National Theater Ballet (the one that came here to DC two weeks ago...directed by Asami Maki)

Asami Maki Ballet (well...this seems to be a different company from the above, yet is also directed by Asami?)

K-Ballet (ah, Tetsuya Kumakawa; their DVDs display very high production standards)

NBA Ballet (they're the ones currently presenting Sergei Vikharev's reconstruction of Petipa/Gorsky's DON Q with Obraztsova as Kitri)

Tokyo City Ballet

Star Dancers Ballet

Any other big-scaled ballet troupes that perform the classics? I could swear I'm missing one or two others from Tokyo; this doesn't even count the companies is Osaka, Nagoya, etc.

Second Theme: Presenters What's up with the various presenting companies....NBA, JBA, etc.??? I notice that certain guest performers work only for NBA, others for JBA & others for other presenters whose names I've forgotten. Also, some of the above ballet troupes seem affiliated to either one or the other.

and, for the heck of it -

Third Theme: professional status of dancers. Which of the above ballet troupes employ professional corps or demi-soloist dancers? [Almost all employ principal-guest dancers, I realize.] Is it true that, in some cases, the corps and demi-solo dancers actually PAY for the honor to perform -- rather than be paid for their services? Yikes! Whatever the status, most of the above-cited companies seem to have magnificent corps de ballet dancers, from what I've observed on DVDs and/or photos. It's no secret that the ballet dancers of Japan are among the best-trained and artistic ones around, consistently doing very well in int'l competitions. All the more incredible that not all of these big companies would provide wages to their corps de ballet (if that is really the case)!

Thanks, in advance, for any & all insights!

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Natalia, I was much impressed by your report of the New National Theater Ballet in Washington. Many Japanese ballet-goers read your reports and talked about it. You seem to know a lot about this company!

First Theme: The Ballet Troupes

Japanese BalletTalkers and others in the know, please help me out. Below is my list of Tokyo-based troupes with classical repertoire. How would you rank one against the other? Does each company have defining qualities? They are listed below in no particular order...just off the top of my head.

In my opinion, if I have to list a few Japanese troups, it will be New National Theater Ballet, Tokyo Ballet, Asami Maki Ballet and K-Ballet. One of the reasons is the issue you have given as the third theme...in those troups the dancers are paid salaries.

In many so-called "professional" ballet troups in Japan, dancers are not paid salaries and they have only wages per stage. They have to make a living with teaching ballet, guesting in ballet school performances and/or part-time jobs.

Especially for female dancers, they are obliged to sell performance tickets to appear in them, and that is sometimes a huge amout. In that context, at least the troups listed above have none of this.

So many dancers go to companies abroad to be actually professional and seek opportunities. Also the big problem is the lack of formal ballet education, and young dancers who want to be professional have to go to ballet schools abroad.

Tokyo Ballet

They are known for Maurice Bejart works and tours Europe every year. Also they have many good male dancers. Mizuka Ueno is an international star but this troup has a weak point in corps de ballet. Not beautifully proportioned. Many famous star dancers such as Manuel Legris, Vladimir Malakhov and Sylvie Guillem guests here. NBS runs this company so they have international connection.

Matsuyama Ballet

Yoko Morishita & T. Shimizu still dances but no other dancers seem to arise, and if Morishita retires I think this troup will be over.

New National Theater Ballet

As you have seen in Washington, the corps de ballet of this troup is amazingly beautiful, well trained and female dancers have beautiful proportions. The problem is that there are few soloists that can virtually dance the leading role. Hiromi Terashima, Hana Sakai, Maki Kawamura and Ryuji Yamamoto are the few leading dancers with that quality. Also the lack of male dancers is serious. They are eagar to make new produtions such as Aladdin by David Bintley, Orphee and Euridice by Dominic Walsh. And their repetoire is mainly classical but contains worls by Roland Petit, Nacho Duato. Svetlana Zahkarova and Denis Matvienko are regular guests.

Asami Maki Ballet

Actually this troup is run by Asami Maki's husband Kyozo Mitani. Many (better) dancers from here also dances in New National Theater Ballet, which is quite confusing. With the emergence of New National Theater Ballet, this troup seems to decline.

K-Ballet

Indeed they boast very high production standards in classcal repetoire, and Viviana Durante and Miyako Yoshida are guest principals. Anthony Dowell also guests. Tetsuya Kumakawa is extremely popular in Japan, but as he had an serious injury last summer and is still away from the stage, there is no next star and the tickets sales seem not so good, although there are some good dancers such as Kenta Shimizu, former principal of Miami City Ballet. Tetsuya Kumakawa is expected to return in March or April.

NBA Ballet, Tokyo City Ballet, Star Dancers Ballet are some troups to mention, although they lack the quality of the above four. Star Dancers Ballet often performs contemporary stuff such as Forsythe and Tudor, but all the good dancers have gone in my opinion.

One small but good company is the Noriko Kobayashi Ballet Theatre lead by New National Theater Ballet ballet mistress Noriko Kobayashi. They often perform British stuff such as MacMillan (The Invitation, Elite Syncopations, Concerto), Ninette de Valois (The Rake's Progress, Checkmate). Ayako Ono of New National Theater Ballet is from this company. Akiko Shimazoe is a very good dancer with high acting qualities.

As for the second theme I will write later.

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Naomikage, thank you so much for your response and insights, which I know are very helpful to other BalletTalkers (not just me). Kobayashi Ballet Theater must be doing something right because, as you read in my reports, Ayako One is one of my favorites!

I look forward to your next insights on the presenters and such, which is a big jumble in my head right now.

I read-up on the New National Theater Ballet prior to my trip to Tokyo one year ago, when I saw a performance of Walsh's beautiful 'Orfeo ed Euridice' starring Sakai & Yamamoto, so I have a happy recollection of their artistry. I was in Japan principally to attend the World Figure Skating Championships but, of course, squeezed-in as much ballet-related activity as was possible. Needless to say, I hope to return some day...maybe to the next World Ballet Festival in '09? One can dream. :tomato:

Lastly, thank you for your kind words about my reports. I am flattered.

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I read-up on the New National Theater Ballet prior to my trip to Tokyo one year ago, when I saw a performance of Walsh's beautiful 'Orfeo ed Euridice' starring Sakai & Yamamoto, so I have a happy recollection of their artistry. I was in Japan principally to attend the World Figure Skating Championships but, of course, squeezed-in as much ballet-related activity as was possible. Needless to say, I hope to return some day...maybe to the next World Ballet Festival in '09? One can dream. :tomato:

Good to hear that you enjoyed 'Orfeo ed Euridice' in Japan.

So, the second question is quite difficult to answer.

I think there are two major promotors in Japan.

NBS lead by the impressario Tadatsugu Sasaki (his photo appears in some magazines and even Manuel Legris' wesite!). NBS promotes the World Ballet Festival a large gala held once in three years. Also, Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Staatsoper Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Bejart Ballet Lausanne are some of the troups NBS promotes. And also the Tokyo Ballet. NBS also promotes Opera such as the Berlin, Vienna State and La Scala.

Dancers such as Sylvie Guillem, Manuel Legris, Vladimir Malkhov only dances with NBS performances, and they have their Friend's gala about every 2 years where they are assured artistic freedom. They frequently guests with the Tokyo Ballet. Also young stars like Matieu Ganio and Polina Semionova guests here often.

Japan Arts is another major promoter which promotes troups such as ABT, Bolshoi Ballet and Mariinsky Ballet. Artists from these troups such as Maria Alexandrova, Irina Dovorovenko, Andrei Uvarov and Sergei Filin appears in NBS galas too, so no exclusive deals seems to be there.

NBS and New National Theatre Ballet Tokyo does not seem to have good relationships which is not a good thing. I don't know the reason why. NBS never used the New National Theatre althiough it is a good theater and stage.

Svetlana Zakharova and Denis Matvienko guests regularly with NNTB but seldom appears in NBS galas. But Alina Cojocaru, Diana Vishneva appears in both troups.

NNTB seems to be affliated with Asami Maki Ballet and Noriko Kobayashi Ballet Theatre but I don't know if it is actually so or not.

Also, some TV channels promotes ballet these days such as TBS for K-Ballet and Fuji Television for

Alessandra Ferri's farewell gala. Many ballet goers don't like TV channels promoting ballet because the promotions are not targeted to ballet lovers and the proce of tickets rise extremely hign. Ballet tickets are vey expensive in Japan (except NNTB), Paris Opera Ballet's Le Parc costs more than 200 dollars. And Opera tickets are more expensive...up to 600 dollars which is crazy.

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Naomikage, thank you so much for your response and insights, which I know are very helpful to other BalletTalkers (not just me).

Yes, Natalia, they are! I would love to hear more about all of the Japanese companies, and not just in Tokyo. I have been looking for any reviews since I found Ballet Talk, and haven't found much. But I too, really enjoyed your recent review of NNT Ballet.

From an interview with Tetsuya Kumakawa after his injury:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/12/03/Kumakawa.qanda/index.html

http://edition.cnn.com/CNNI/Programs/revealed/kumakawa/

CNN: Are audiences missing you?

Kumakawa: They are. I'm not just saying that because I see the number of tickets sales every week. This week only a couple of hundred tickets have sold. We have to sell 20 thousand, so it is a big difference. But this time is my real turning point, and sooner or later it would have happened because in the future I would have given up you know, I would be stepping out of the main role or becoming the director not the dancer anymore -- in 10 yrs time, 20 yrs time I don't know. But sooner or later it would have happened so I think it's good that it happened just now, this time. This is my practice for my retirement.

Naomikage, K-Ballet certainly looks like it has a great deal of talent besides Tetsuya. Do you think he has used his recovery time to try to promote some of his other dancers, or is he trying to fill seats with guest artists? Have the ticket sales improved since this interview and are any other dancers getting recognition? I have not heard good things about his school - do you think the school and company will be able to bring up more stars to take his place?

I think it's very unfair that Japanese companies should go to Washington, DC without a stopover in Vancouver, BC! We are so much closer and we love the japanese companies ... we need a good presenter ... in my dreams ...

"We have to sell 20 thousand (tickets a week) ..." There's a number for North American audiences to ponder.

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Seeing how Japanese are generally shorter than their American and European counterparts, what is the minimum height that a female dancer must have in any one of the abovementioned companies?

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Thanks also for the 2nd report, naomikage. This is absolutely fascinating. I've also noticed that Rasta Thomas is another guest-star in the NBS-Tokyo Ballet 'stable' who recently danced in their Diaghilev mixed bill - Chopiniana. You probably see more of him in the classics than we do here in the States. I'm jealous!

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Naomikage, K-Ballet certainly looks like it has a great deal of talent besides Tetsuya. Do you think he has used his recovery time to try to promote some of his other dancers, or is he trying to fill seats with guest artists? Have the ticket sales improved since this interview and are any other dancers getting recognition? I have not heard good things about his school - do you think the school and company will be able to bring up more stars to take his place?

I think it's very unfair that Japanese companies should go to Washington, DC without a stopover in Vancouver, BC! We are so much closer and we love the japanese companies ... we need a good presenter ... in my dreams ...

CeC、 Tetsuya Kumakawa is a celebrity in Japan and he and Miyako Yoshida are the few ballet dancers who appear frequently on television. Moreover, a major broadcast station TBS is the sponsor of K-Ballet so he even appeared on a cooking program last Saturday. Rasta Thomas once appeared as a guest to fill in his role at Don Quixote last summer, but no other guests appeared as a substitute and Kenta Shimizu, a new talented principal from Miami City Ballet is filling the roles. I am not sure about the tickets sales but K-Ballet's tickets are fairly expensive for a Japanese troupe, about 160 dollars. Yuko Arai, the prima ballerina has a very strong technique, she was in the Tokyo Ballet.

About his ballet school. I heard that some students applied for the Prix de Lausanne but no one made it to the semi-finals. As there is actually no ballet school in Japan that has such formal education as the ones in Europe, and for instance Akane Takata, a winner at Prix de Lausanne this year studies in Russia, the Moscow Academy. But Kumakawa is struggling to make a good school, and because of him ballet has such high recognition in Japan.

Anyway it is so happy to hear that people in US and Canada are intrested in Japanese ballet. It was a first visit for NNTB to perform abroads, and I hope that they will tour regulary in US, Canada etc. They even don't tour much in Japan. K-Ballet is a touring company and perhaps the most frequent performer in Japanese Ballet. As the NNTB shares the theatre with opera, there are only about 40 performances a year and that is too less. You can see the schedule in their website.

http://www.nntt.jac.go.jp/english/season/ballet/index.html

NNTB will have a event to report the Washington tour to Japanese fans in March.

Natalia, Rasta Thomas appeared in the Diaghilev Program by NBA Ballet (the same company that had Yevgenia Obraztsova in Don Q recently. Yevgenia Obraztsova was so brilliant!) and danced Chopaniana and Le Spectre de la Rose. Also he appeared in a contemporary piece called Rhapsody in Blue choreographed by former Hamburg Ballet, now Alberta Ballet Yukichi Hattori and that was great too.

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Seeing how Japanese are generally shorter than their American and European counterparts, what is the minimum height that a female dancer must have in any one of the abovementioned companies?

As for New National Theatre Ballet, female corps dancers have to be at least 163cm, and soloists 160cm. Male corps 170cm and soloists 167cm to be auditioned.

This is quite high, and is the reason why NNTB female corps look to have beautiful proportion. Ayako Ono is a petite dancer and that is one reason she joined NNTB as a soloist.

As in other countries, female dancers are getting taller, but tall men are rare.

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Naomikage, Tetsuya Kumakawa and Miyako Yoshida are very big celebrities outside Japan as well! I think he is easily the most talked about dancer among people I know.

I don't want to take this thread off topic, but I would really like to know a bit more about the training in Japan. I know there are Japanese students at every ballet school I can think of, frequently as young as 11 years old. But they often seem very well trained when they arrive and they also often seem to have good schools to go back to. Many times I think they have better training at home than they are getting in the schools abroad. When I said I had not heard good things about K-Ballet School, I meant I had heard that there were other schools in Tokyo that were better. Is this not the case? Does Tokyo Ballet not have a very good school associated with it? I am sorry, I do not know the names of the schools I mean, but I thought there were a great many, some not so good, but some very good. The people who go to competitions and student shows in Japan say the standards are extremely high - where are they getting this training? Is the K-Ballet School to be set up on more of a European model?

Thank you for all of the information!

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Thank you all for these posts. :tomato:

Naomikage, it's good to hear that Kenta Shimazu is making impression with the K Ballet.

He left Miami as a soloist, having started in the corps in 2002. I remember him (in green) in Dances at a Gathering and as one of the couple dancing "Strangers in the Night" in Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs.

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If this is off-topic please ignore. Apologies to all. However...

This entire thread is SO interesting to me. I am fascinated by how ballet in Japan has developed since I lived there many many years ago. But now I am a little confused...I started my professional career in Japan, I thought it was at Tokyo Ballet; at least that's what the my mother's old programs say--including their very fuzzy pictures of me. What company was it actually? This was a long while ago, but FYI: Yoko Morishita was in the company, Roy Tobias taught and I think was AD or Assistant AD too, one of my friend's name was Shimizu, and we did tour (I remember with RB, or London Festival too?)as well as the usual performances at Kosei Nenkin in Tokyo. (I remember ABT, Kirov, etc. all went to Ueno instead) Sometimes people said Tokyo Ballet Gekijo (what does that mean?) Sorry I'm so fuzzy, but I was still young, and all I did was dance, so consequently let my parents and the adults deal with the administration or business side of things. I remember having a very strong disciplined school, but my mother thought they were putting the girls on pointe too young and made me wait over a year till SHE thought my bones etc. were stronger. I also took three commuter trains daily to AND from the studios to my home every day. Thanks for any aging recollections or clarification.

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I am glad that someone raised this issue because in the midst of the attention given to the Asian ballet world these days (with so many Japanese and Koreans trying to make it in the West) it's an increasingly important question, particularly for the Japanese ballet community.

The problem in Japan is that Japan didn't start out with the creation of a "national" state-funded company. Hence, we saw the rise of all these private companies (i.e. Matsuyama w/ Yoko Morishita and Shimizu Tetsutaro; Maki Asami; Homura Tomoi (this is a smaller company in Osaka)). The problem with these companies is that as mentioned earlier, some of these companies do not offer salaries to the dancers, but at the same time, the companies cannot compete in the long-term if they don't produce STAR dancers because it's privately funded. This is the reason why Matsuyama was so successful in terms of getting a certain level of recognition domestically and internationally in the 1980s -- because YOKO MORISHITA invited Nureyev, and other famours dancers to dance with her troupe to help her maintain her stardom in Japan. Now, the company is dying because there are no dancers who can replace Morishita. And on a side note, I think Morishita is too egocentric to even think of retiring, when in fact she really shouldn't be performing any more. Her glory days are gone, and she needs to wake up and accept that reality --- I saw her recently and it was just TOO PAINFUL to watch her.

The other problem is that the Japanese public (particularly the women) LOVE the ballet, but most ballet teachers do it out of their sheer passion (which is not a problem, but is a problem when trying to set up a better system where we can help pool a certain group of student talent into one major national ballet school) and simply maintain "small" companies and schools. We see that occasionally, some of these teachers end up producing 1 or 2 talented dancers who can compete at the international level (and hence, many compete at Lausanne), but because the Japanese society places so much hierarchical strain and mannerism between the teachers and the students, the students often cannot cut off relationships with their teachers, who want to even "keep" them in their relatively small, regional ballet companies (or rather, dance "ensemble" would be a better word in some cases) even if the student wants to go abroad or join bigger Japanese companies.

This privatization of companies leads to another problem: because there are SO MANY (and in fact, TOO MANY) little ballet schools/centers, as well as companies run privately, Japan fails to solidify and create ONE MAJOR national company or school. Although students and the general ballet community have become more interested in the New National Ballet Theater (and I do hope they become the equivalent of the POB or Royal in the long run), we ALSO have Tokyo Ballet, K-Ballet, and so forth that aren't much different in terms of their calibers....but this prohibits the creation of ONE or TWO MAJOR companies that can keep a certain pool of talent and develop into a truly prestigious international company. I mean if we put all the TOP dancers from Tokyo Ballet, K-Ballet together INTO the NNBT, NNBT would have much higher standards. The same can be said re: all the talented Japanese dancers who went abroad because they couldn't stand the strain of the Japanese ballet community. If we put SHOKO NAKAMURA (Berlin), NAO SAKUMA (BRB) YUHUI CHOE (RB), MISA KURANAGA (Boston), AKI SAITO (Flanders), YOSHIDA all in one company, or ALL in NNBT, NNBT would probably reach a level that would trail "just a little behind" SFB or even ABT.

Let me just say that the Tokyo Ballet will have no future after their eccentric impresario Sasaki retires. This guy has pretty much controlled the Japanese ballet market until now with his connections to Western ballet celebrities (Guillem, Malakhov, Legris, Maurice Bejart, etc) but the company's standard is terrible, their corps is horrible in comparison to NNTB and they only have Ueno Mizuka as their potential star, who didn't even start off with this company. (She trained at Maki Asami) Thus we see the fate of these "private" companies....if his legacy survives, I would be rather surprised.

K-Ballet is also facing a somewhat similar situation, although the company is doing better because of Kumakawa's stardom. But one cannot fail to recognize the issues that will arise AFTER his directorship. Because the company is literally living off of his star-status and the press attention that he gets, unless he creates a company in the management style of ABT (which he's trying to do), his company is doomed to face the same fate as YOKO MORISHITA's Matsuyama Ballet. Which is why I think he's trying to create a TOP ballet school in Japan, something that the NNBT needs to start doing immediately besides their recently instituted "trainee" program.

To be honest, I don't really see a great future with the Japanese ballet unless aspiring dancers, and particularly the ballet teachers (who own individual, small companies/ensembles) start to realize that they have to ALL MOVE towards the solidification and unification of a NATIONAL ballet company/school. They need to stop the system of these "small"/"ensemble" ballet schools and if someone is talented enough, tailor them towards joining NNBT. It's NOT that NNBT is better at this point, or that Maki Asami's directorship is excellent (I think she's all right, personally speaking, she could be a little less old-school and more creative, and she also needs to bring in better choreographic talent, she herself IS NOT a top-class choreographer) -- it's that at this moment, NNBT has the RIGHT infrastructure (their own opera house, a "national" institution) to potentially reach an international status. As mentioned above, Tokyo already has too many private companies: besides K-Ballet, NNBT, Maki Asami, there's also Star-Dancers, NBA, etc etc, the tedious list goes on. Democracy and diversification is great, but given the relatively small Japanese population, let alone the Japanese ballet population, the Japanese ballet world needs to start realizing that they have to work towards strengthening the status and the standard of NNBT, so that finally we can stop the export of talented Japanese dancers who go and join companies abroad and instead, let them work and stay at home. In the end, that is the only path to the creation of a world-class Japanese company.

Thank you for reading!

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This is a fascinating discussion. Thank you , Natalia, for bringing it up and thank you to all the responders for your detailed and passionate responses. I think that outside Japan, there is the impression that Japan is a ballet wonderland, so it is illuminating to read the Japanese perspective.

I understand from naomikage and ruteyo that there are no state subsidies for ballet. Is this true for other arts? Are symphony orchestras subsidised? Are Japanese classical arts subsidised or is everything private?

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The other problem is that the Japanese public (particularly the women) LOVE the ballet, but most ballet teachers do it out of their sheer passion (which is not a problem, but is a problem when trying to set up a better system where we can help pool a certain group of student talent into one major national ballet school) and simply maintain "small" companies and schools. We see that occasionally, some of these teachers end up producing 1 or 2 talented dancers who can compete at the international level (and hence, many compete at Lausanne), but because the Japanese society places so much hierarchical strain and mannerism between the teachers and the students, the students often cannot cut off relationships with their teachers, who want to even "keep" them in their relatively small, regional ballet companies (or rather, dance "ensemble" would be a better word in some cases) even if the student wants to go abroad or join bigger Japanese companies.

Let me just say that the Tokyo Ballet will have no future after their eccentric impresario Sasaki retires. This guy has pretty much controlled the Japanese ballet market until now with his connections to Western ballet celebrities (Guillem, Malakhov, Legris, Maurice Bejart, etc) but the company's standard is terrible, their corps is horrible in comparison to NNTB. Thus we see the fate of these "private" companies....if his legacy survives, I would be rather surprised.

It's NOT that NNBT is better at this point, or that Maki Asami's directorship is excellent (I think she's all right, personally speaking, she could be a little less old-school and more creative, and she also needs to bring in better choreographic talent, she herself IS NOT a top-class choreographer) -- it's that at this moment, NNBT has the RIGHT infrastructure (their own opera house, a "national" institution) to potentially reach an international status.

ruteyo, I totally agree with your opinion, especially what I quoted above. How come you know so much about the current situation in Japan!

I am only a ballet goer and I only studied ballet as an adult student so I do not have enough knowledge about ballet education, but where I study ballet is affliated to a certain professional ballet company (none of the ones mentioned) and I feel the Japanese society places so much hierarchical strain and mannerism between the teachers and the students that the sutudent don't have enough choice than to enter competitions or go abroad.

One bright news is the NNBT ballet institute, a institute for 17~21year olds and educates ballet for 2 years, most of the students enter NNTB (graduates are dancers such as Ayako Ona, Miwa Motojima and Akimitsu Yahata) had only auditioned once in two years, has started to audition every year and I have that feeling that it will be transformed into the first acutual national ballet school.

Ballet schools in Japan are not like the Vaganova or POB school or Royal Ballet School, although many good teachers are there. One of the most famous ballet schools is Tachibana Ballet School, affliated with Asami Maki Ballet and many amous dancers, even Yoko Morishita was educated there. But the students only go to the school after they go to their regular elementary or high schools in the afternoon.

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What a fascinating, thought-provoking discussion! (Thanks also from me Natalia for having started the thread, and naomikage and ruteyo for the insight!)

Being away from home for a long while and losing touch with Japanese ballet scene, I myself couldn't give any material, 'insider's views' ..... but thought perhaps I could contribute a bit too, sharing some objective info. - hard facts dept.

I understand from naomikage and ruteyo that there are no state subsidies for ballet. Is this true for other arts? Are symphony orchestras subsidised? Are Japanese classical arts subsidised or is everything private?

Ah no, not everything is private - far from it! In fact, New National Ballet Theatre (NNBT) for instance is one of high-profile government-subsidised institutions. But precisely how much is being spent on them from Japanese taxpayers' money, I had no idea, so have done a quick research - here follows what I've discovered:

* NNBT, alongside 6 other performing arts institutions carrying 'national' status, is run by Japan Arts Council, and grant come through its sub-org. Japan Arts Fund. (Approx. 83% of Japan Arts Fund's capital came from the government; the rest from Corporate/Private donors) The seven national institutions are:

- National Theatre (for traditional Japanese performing arts: Kabuki, Bunraku, Buyo, Hougaku - traditional Japanese music, etc)

- National Engei Hall (for traditional Japanese spoken entertainment: Rakugo, Koudan, Rokyoku)

- National Noh Theatre (for Noh and Kyogen)

- National Bunraku Theatre (for Bunraku - puppet theatre)

- National Theatre Okinawa (for traditional 'Ryukyu' dance/music)

- New National Theatre Tokyo (for 'modern/contemporary' performing arts: Opera, ballet, modern dance, drama/play)

- Traditional Performing Arts Information Centre

* According to the disclosure report, the subsidy for the above 7 national institutions totalled JPY11.6bn (equivalent to approx. US$112mn) in FY2006 (Apr06/Mar07). New National Theatre, the home to NNTB, had the biggest shares - JPY5.1bn (approx. US$49mn). This accounted for 60% of their total revenue for the period, JPY8.4bn (approx. US$81mn).

* Japan Arts Fund also provides grant to medium/small scale performing arts organisations/groups, as well as more general cultural activities. In FY2007 JPY2bn (approx. US$20mn) was granted to 911 applicants located across the country. Beneficiaries included numerous ballet/dance/opera companies/groups, orchestras, drama/play groups, film creators, traditional performing arts groups, museums, preservers of cultural heritage - the list goes on and on! (I have a feeling that on top of this there should be other sources of subsidies as well, from local governments, private cultural foundations, etc.)

Going back to New National Theatre.... the government subsidy of US$49mn - is this good enough or not? Surely not a small number, but again I had no clue so took rough measures and compared it with that of Covent Garden's (now my 'home' theatre). This has led me to a revelatory (or rather shocking) discovery...

The state subsidy given to NNT, US$49mn, is roughly the same level ROH currently receives from Arts Council England!

According to what the national daily The Independent reported in December 2007, ROH gets c.GBP25.5m (approx. US$51m) from Arts Council, and that makes up c.30% of their total revenue. A further 40% comes from Box Office, and c.15% each from fundraising and commercial activities. (That brings annual revenue of ROH to c. US$169m)

Why the surprise? I certainly don't want to step in the danger zone being too simplistic to compare the two very different institutions, however, the contrast between London and Tokyo is a bit too stark. One very obvious difference is its scale; compared to Covent Garden, Japan's NNT is seemingly a lot smaller operation. They do not have their own orchestra, nor Music Director. Their ballet troupe, excluding ones on 'registered-base' contract, consist of just under 60 dancers. Then the biggest difference, the number of performances at the two theatres. In Tokyo it looks like the main auditorium at the theatre remains dormant most of the time, as there are about (or less than) 1/3 of the performances that takes place at ROH. (During 2006/2007 Season the number of performances given at NNT were: Ballet - 7 works/36 performances; Opera - 10 works 46 performances).

All along, I thought it's lack of public money that caused the small-scale operation at NNT, but the state subsidy given to them doesn't particularly look 'disrespectful' level. (The findings leave me much to ponder....)

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What a fascinating, thought-provoking discussion! (Thanks also from me Natalia for having started the thread, and naomikage and ruteyo for the insight!)

The state subsidy given to NNT, US$49mn, is roughly the same level ROH currently receives from Arts Council England!

According to what the national daily The Independent reported in December 2007, ROH gets c.GBP25.5m (approx. US$51m) from Arts Council, and that makes up c.30% of their total revenue. A further 40% comes from Box Office, and c.15% each from fundraising and commercial activities. (That brings annual revenue of ROH to c. US$169m)

Why the surprise? I certainly don't want to step in the danger zone being too simplistic to compare the two very different institutions, however, the contrast between London and Tokyo is a bit too stark. One very obvious difference is its scale; compared to Covent Garden, Japan's NNT is seemingly a lot smaller operation. They do not have their own orchestra, nor Music Director. Their ballet troupe, excluding ones on 'registered-base' contract, consist of just under 60 dancers. Then the biggest difference, the number of performances at the two theatres. In Tokyo it looks like the main auditorium at the theatre remains dormant most of the time, as there are about (or less than) 1/3 of the performances that takes place at ROH. (During 2006/2007 Season the number of performances given at NNT were: Ballet - 7 works/36 performances; Opera - 10 works 46 performances).

All along, I thought it's lack of public money that caused the small-scale operation at NNT, but the state subsidy given to them doesn't particularly look 'disrespectful' level. (The findings leave me much to ponder....)

Remember that as regards the ROH's funding, that is the total budget for both opera and ballet. Many of us would like to know how it is split between the two. But it covers the Royal Opera, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet.

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The state subsidy given to NNT, US$49mn, is roughly the same level ROH currently receives from Arts Council England!

All along, I thought it's lack of public money that caused the small-scale operation at NNT, but the state subsidy given to them doesn't particularly look 'disrespectful' level. (The findings leave me much to ponder....)

This information by Naoko S was very interesting..I did not resarch enough for those facts. And if you take a look at the website you can see there is quite a few corporate sponsors. It lacks the weathly patrons that spend a huge amount of funds to private, self funded companies like ABT, but it is a national institute and there was not so much culture in Japan of funding to art so much, especially wealthy individuals don' t do such.

Anther problem is the hostility from other ballet institutions such as NBS. One reason for this is that the Opera House capacity of NNB is small, only 1,814 seats is very small. NNT's Opera and Ballet performances sells very well. and popular opera productions such as Lady of the Camelias and Carmen, Aida sells out on the day the box office opens. And the same thing happens with Ballet performances with Svetlana Zakharova. But the capacity of the hall is small means less profit. Many different organaizations such as NBS would like to use this Hall because is is the only hall in Tokyo designed for opera but because of the capacity and the expensive fee to borrow it no one will lend the opera house for an foreign opera house tour, it is impossible to make profits. So the Opera House remains empty for many days.

The impresario Mr Sasaki from NBS keeps criticizing NNTB in the NBS newsletter because of the fact that the Opera house was made too small, which was a result of ignoring Mr.Sasaki's opinion to the new national opera house. Also another thing criticised is that too many NNTB dancers are from Asami Maki Ballet and Tachibana Ballet School. This is a very difficult issue, and many young dancers have joined NNTB in those 10 years have no connections to Asami Maki Ballet, so situations have changed, although there were two Asami Maki Ballet dancers who are not members of NNTB joined the Washington performance because of lack of male dancers due to injury.

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NNTB will have a event to report the Washington tour to Japanese fans in March.

Naomikage, is it possible for someone to post a report of this event? It would be interesting to see how NNTB perceives the reception they got in DC. In my opinion the tour was a big artistic success, and I personally hope they come back real soon!

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Remember that as regards the ROH's funding, that is the total budget for both opera and ballet. Many of us would like to know how it is split between the two. But it covers the Royal Opera, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet.

Yes, that's what I meant - the TOTAL subsidy for both theatres, ROH and NNT. (I didn't compare oranges to apples...)

However there's one thing I should have mentioned on a special (or rather peculiar) arrangement at NNT. There, opera and ballet have to share the pie with one more contender, 'play/drama' section (although it appears they almost always use medium/small theatres within the complex). Ah well perhaps I've taken it wrong for so long; NTT may not be seen as a 'lyric theatre', in strict sense...

This information by Naoko S was very interesting..I did not resarch enough for those facts. And if you take a look at the website you can see there is quite a few corporate sponsors. It lacks the weathly patrons that spend a huge amount of funds to private, self funded companies like ABT, but it is a national institute and there was not so much culture in Japan of funding to art so much, especially wealthy individuals don' t do such.

Anther problem is the hostility from other ballet institutions such as NBS. One reason for this is that the Opera House capacity of NNB is small, only 1,814 seats is very small. NNT's Opera and Ballet performances sells very well. and popular opera productions such as Lady of the Camelias and Carmen, Aida sells out on the day the box office opens. And the same thing happens with Ballet performances with Svetlana Zakharova. But the capacity of the hall is small means less profit. Many different organaizations such as NBS would like to use this Hall because is is the only hall in Tokyo designed for opera but because of the capacity and the expensive fee to borrow it no one will lend the opera house for an foreign opera house tour, it is impossible to make profits. So the Opera House remains empty for many days.

naomikage, I agree with your views that in Japan arts in general don't attract public money. But about the lack of support from wealthy individuals - if there's less financial support from rich people, compared to for instance U.S., isn't it partly because Japan is not a country of 'super rich', in the first place? (How many Japanese individuals have made it to Forbes's Rich List? Given the country's size of economy there's so few billionaires there... in modern-day Japan it's corporations that tend to have the accumulation of wealth...)

Your point on the capacity of NNT's 'Opera Theatre' was interesting....I'm a complete novice on administrative side of performing arts, but....

Perhaps it may be too small to make a profit for visiting foreign opera companies, but what about NTT's giving their own performances? Do they lose out if throw more shows? (That they put on only 46 performances for opera and 36 performances for ballet in a season looks so wrong - overwhelmingly underused infrastructure! And I'm thinking of renowned lyric theatres with even smaller capacities, for instance, Brussel's La Monnaie...)

I just had a look at NNT's website to find out the rental rate for Opera Theatre, but couldn't locate any info. Then a further digging led me to the page where they announced that currently Opera Theatre is not rentable due (mainly) to their own use ('for putting on NNT's performances, etc'). This is bizarre, as there seems to be no one who'll occupy the theatre during NNT's off-months: July, August & September. It's simply incredible if this heavily subsidised theatre (the main one) stands empty for the entire three months....

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NNTB will have a event to report the Washington tour to Japanese fans in March.

Naomikage, is it possible for someone to post a report of this event? It would be interesting to see how NNTB perceives the reception they got in DC. In my opinion the tour was a big artistic success, and I personally hope they come back real soon!

Mike, I am not sure I can attend that meeting yet but some friends of mine who went to Washington to see NNTB will attend that and I can collect reports from them. They were very happy that the Washington audience seemed to like the performance.

Hiromi Terashima and her twin sister Mayumi has a website and alithough it is all in Japanese you can see wonderful pictures of the backstage of their tour.

http://www.t-twins.net/tour/index.html

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