by Diane Wiltshire
In April, a local theater company in McLean, Virginia, (our home away from Tokyo) held auditions for the musical “Brigadoon” and our 12-year-old son, Kennedy, wanted to try out for a part. The casting call was for dancers with a minimum requirement of two years ballet training. Out of the 50 or more, children auditioning, the director would choose only two boys and three girls, so Kennedy was keenly eyeing the competition.
One boy in particular was quite amazing, with leaps and jetes like a young Baryshnikov; it was obvious that he had years of training. At the callbacks, my son was astonished to learn that this boy, Alex Newman-Wise, began studying ballet as a kindergartner in Tokyo where Kennedy also got his start. The director of “Brigadoon” was intrigued by the coincidence and ended up casting both Alex and Kennedy, a couple of 12-year-old guys who had taken their first ballet lessons together in Japan at age 4!
Ballet is not just for girls, as more and more parents are realizing. In the U.S., there is currently a renewed interest in ballet training for boys, and as a result, a stronger, more masculine form of dancing is emerging in some of the major ballet companies. And in Tokyo, there are now more ballet schools available to the foreign community than ever before. For fitness, poise and agility, ballet classes are an excellent choice for children of all ages and either gender.
Perhaps the most well known ballet school in the Tokyo area is Ana’s School of Dance, founded by Ana Keates in 1982. “Miss Ana,” a graduate of the Royal Ballet in London, is a registered teacher of the Royal Academy of Dancing, and has danced professionally throughout Europe and Japan.
Miss Ana’s teachers are an internationally, highly qualified team, specializing in a variety of dance forms. The school offers a wide range of dance classes for children and adults, with classes held at most of the international schools in Tokyo. Classes include Classical Ballet, Character, Tap, Modern, Jazz, National, Song and Dance, Pas de Deux, Folk Dancing and Fitness. Major productions featuring all the students are staged at the end of each year, complete with elaborate costumes and guest artists.
Over the years, Miss Ana’s pupils have regularly achieved high marks on ballet examinations; several have been accepted to some of the best ballet schools in the world, including the Royal Ballet School at Whitelodge, England, and the National Ballet School of Canada.
For more information, contact Ana’s School of Dance, The International Dance School in Tokyo, Green louse, 5-2-9 Denenchofu, Ota-ku,Tokyo 145; tel: 3721-5495; fax, 3721-7429.
A relatively new school, Actus Ballet Studio, is actually an amalgamation of The Yokohama Children’s Ballet and Small World Children’s Ballet. Director Helen Price is a graduate of the National Ballet School of Canada and has performed, studied and taught in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. She founded The Yokohama Children’s Ballet in 1989, Small World in 1991 and, just recently, consolidated the two schools.
Helen’s main studio is located in Shin Kawasaki (five minutes from the station) in a large, bright space equipped with a baby grand piano, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and a sprung dance floor. She also teaches classes at Landmark Plaza in Yokohama, and has been on the faculty of The International Dance School in Hiroo since 1994. Helen was certified with the Royal Academy of Dance in 1995. She currently offers ballet classes for age 4 through adult, and prospective students may come in for a free trial lesson.
Pupils with Actus Ballet Studio appear in ballet productions twice a year in addition to a Christmas concert. Helen has recently formed another company, Actus Ballet Theatre, whose aim is to bring dance to the community while providing additional performing experience for her students. Using dancers, live music and narrative, Actus Ballet Theatre has performed for schools, hospitals and on television.
For more information, Helen Price can be reached c/o Actus Ballet Studio at 158 Kashimada, Saiwai-ku, Kawasaki; tel/fax, (0422) 47-4664.
The Jenny Hosmer School Ballet has been operating for the past 15 years, run by Jenny Hosmer, a graduate of the Johannesburg School of Ballet, Music and Drama in South Africa. A long-time resident of Japan, Jenny offers ballet classes for children ages 3 and up. She also holds adult classes for beginners, as well as for the serious student of dance. Her ballet school follows the Royal Academy of Dance course of study, and enters pupils in the RAD exams. Jenny is a certified teacher with the Royal Academy.
The studio is located in Oji on the Keihin Tohoku Line. For more information, contact The Jenny Hosmer Ballet School, 1-4-1 Oji, Kita-ku, Tokyo 114-0002; tel/ fax, 3927-2772.
The International Dance School, conveniently located in Hiroo, offers classes taught in a professional studio by highly trained, bilingual instructors. Classical ballet, jazz, tap and creative dance are on the curriculum, including Royal Academy of Dance testing. Teacher assistants help with the younger classes (children are accepted from age 3), and adult classes are also available. Annual performances and recitals are held at the studio.
For more information, contact The International Dance School, Matsuishi Building, 2F, 1-8-9 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo tel/fax, 3444-2180.
One of the teachers on the staff at the International Dance School is American Diana Ishiyama, an enthusiastic and very talented instructor. In addition to her work at IDS, Diana also runs her own school, Rainbow School of the Arts, where students can take Song and Dance Musical Theatre, or more advanced classes in jazz, tap, hip-hop and ballet.
In the Song and Dance classes, pupils learn basic vocal skills for stage along with various dance styles, including ballet, modern, jazz and tap. All music and spoken lines are in English, and the classes are open to anyone from age 4 through adult.
For junior high students and older, Diana teaches advanced classes in jazz, tap, hip-hop and modern, incorporating the styles of such famous teachers as Debbie Dee and Charles Goddertz.
The Rainbow School of the Arts is located in Tohoku New Town on the Denentoshi Line. For more information, please contact Diana Ishiyama at 2-7-9 Tsumura, Machida-shi, Tokyo; tel/fax, (0427) 99-6579.