Japanese ballet dancers share impressions about Moscow
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"Afisha Daily" likes to speak with foreigners who live and work in Moscow. This time we spoke to Japanese dancers - MGAH graduates, who came here to conquer the ballet scene and unexpectedly got Russified.
Erica Asai, 26 years old
City of origin: Nagoya, Japan
Occupation: A dancer of Moscow Ballet troupe and a graduate of Moscow State Academy of Arts
"I came to Russia at the age of 14. Since I was 9 years old, I participated in several dozens of ballet competitions every year in Japan and one day I won a scholarship to study at Moscow Academy of Choreography. After 4 years in Moscow, I went to Calgary, Canada as an intern at Alberta Ballet Company. Then I returned to Japan, taught dance, and performed dances as well. But I came back to Russia when I realized that I wanted to practice ballet here. Russians have incredible expressiveness and are able to show or communicate meaning or feeling effectively. The Japanese are not at all so suited for acting. I learn a lot about dancing with Russians. When we rehearse together, the partners are very attentive. They always ask if everything is all right and whether if it is difficult for me. They are kind and it is easy to work or deal with them.
But when I first arrived in Russia, I was frightened. There was so little sunshine and people have serious expressions on their faces. I did not speak Russian and so when I heard Russian being spoken, it seemed to me that people were angry with something. I was so stressed and homesick that I could not eat. I know it sounds awful but I lost so much weight that when I grew 160 cm, I only weighed 32 kilograms. I went to the school and decided that I had no choice but to continue to work hard every day.
I was also surprised by Moscow subway. The doors of cabin close so quickly and escalators move fast. When a train suddenly stopped in a tunnel and the light went out, it really frightened me. I was also surprised by Russian way of driving. There are only three lanes on roads and sometimes, cars are coming in six rows too close to trucks that is much worse than a roller coaster.
I liked Russian buckwheat. I once brought it to Japan and cooked it for my family. They did not appreciate Russian buckwheat, claimed it was tasteless. I also told them that in warm seasons there are many people, who are probably alcoholics, with red faces on the streets of Moscow. I was shocked that there are also so many of them in summer as well. And in winter they are not noticed at all, in general this is understandable.
Over time, I learned the Russian language and Russia became my second home. I fell in love with Russians. I like your Russian mentality and caring qualities. My character has changed as well: I don't know if it is good or bad, but I have become gloomier. I also learned to drink - even vodka - but sake, of course, is more conventional. I began to worry less. In Japan, everything goes according to the schedule and should be perfectly adjusted. Life in Japan is most comfortable, but in Russia it is necessary to solve problems on your own. Then I learned humility.
But most importantly, I realized how important it is to care about other people's feelings, because emotional connection is very important for Russians. You are really interested in how things are with another person whereas in the West and in Japan this question is dismissed and claim "Everything is good." Russians respond to this sincerely and this question is the start of a conversation."
Hayato Nishijima, 23 years old
City of origin: Tokyo
Occupation: the dancer of Moscow Ballet troupe, the founder of Bright Step Project, a graduate of Moscow State Academy of Arts
"My mother is also a ballerina who she studied in Monaco. And one of her teachers, Alex, studied in Moscow and eventually became the director of the ballet school in Stuttgart. In Japan there is no state school where you can practice only ballet. And when we asked for advice to Alex, he said that we should go to Moscow where there are excellent schools. So, thanks to Alex's advice, I found myself in Russia, and only then I began to take an interest to Russian ballet. And I fell in love.
Russians welcomed me very sincerely and are very cheerful and emotional, unlike conservative Japanese. We are also open and cheerful when we become close friends with someone but in everyday life Japanese keep mostly to themselves. Here Russian guys immediately called me a "brother". I immediately realized that you always say what you think, so the first strong impressions were impressions from people. Before coming here, I thought that Russians were harsh and gloomy. It turned out that their main quality is openness and I immediately had many friends.
We lived in a boarding school where we had breakfasts, lunches and dinners. And every morning we were given porridge. I was frustrated at first because in Japan, rice and miso-soup are eaten since morning. And then ... What's for breakfast today? Porridge. And what’s breakfast for tomorrow? Porridge. I was glad that every day it was different, but I just could not eat it. They also gave us buckwheat which we use to make noodles - soba. And in the boarding school it was on the same plate with boiled tongue - in general horror. On the first day, I generally fled to McDonald's and bought French fries and a burger. Then l began to force myself to eat boarding food and eventually got used to it.
While on tours or travelling to regional competitions to Voronezh, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar, Perm and St. Petersburg, I lived with Russians in hotels and we drank every day. Once I won a contest in Sochi and went to celebrate in one of the bars on the beach. They ordered half a liter of vodka and they thought they would bring a decanter. Instead, they brought a basin with 20 shots. We asked "why such a strange pitcher?” The waiter answered: " Hey guys, you arrived in Sochi - what do you want?" Well, we began to scoop up and drink a shot for a shot. The guys were okay. They then sang and danced. Japanese are softened by alcohol, but Russians become happy and cheerful. When they arrived at the hotel, they toned it down as if their energy level is very low. And the next morning they do not remember anything. By the way, when I worked in Astrakhan, there was a similar case. We went fishing and decided to drink while we were waiting for fish to bite. The next day when I asked if we could cook the fish that they had caught. And the guy said, "What kind of fish? What kind of fishing? I do not remember anything!" Apparently, unconsciousness is some peculiar effect on your body.
Moscow is a different world compared to the rest of Russia. Well, St. Petersburg, too which is generally a historical city. Moscow is huge with both modern and old buildings standing side by side. And there is nothing in Astrakhan. The airport is small, as well as the city itself. You walk around the city - forest, forest, oh, center. This is the center, right? At the same time, in every provincial city - whether it is Voronezh or Astrakhan - there may not be business or shopping centers, but there are always theaters of opera and ballet. And people really visit them. Each theater has its own traditions and an artistic school. I think this is something unique about Russia. And I like the fact immensely that you appreciate art not only in megacities, but also in a province."
Sakura Narikawa, 26 years old
City of origin: Tokyo
Occupation: A student of the department of pedagogy of Moscow State Academy of Choreography (MGAH); performed in ballet troupes in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk and Astrakhan
"I first visited Russia after finishing school at 18. Most of all I was surprised by supermarkets and how people threw products in a basket while in Japan they were carefully arranged. Often I was mistaken for a Chinese girl, and sometimes I came across rude behavior in the street. I cannot say that I liked everything at once. But over time I got used to both the language and the emotional nature of Russians. Now it can be sometimes difficult for me to communicate with Japanese.
The thing I like most of all about St. Petersburg is the feeling that the whole city is a museum. We lived in a communal flat near Nevsky Prospect and it was convenient. Moscow is also very beautiful and I especially like the subway and cabins which are designed as exhibitions. I thought a life in the province is absolutely not for me. The house where I lived in Petrozavodsk looked as if it had been bombed. But there I spent only three thousand rubles a month and there was simply nothing to buy. It was hard when hot water was turned off and I thought I would die.
When I look at Japanese ballet scene, I see tense and unnatural acting. A Russian artist on the stage looks as if in ordinary, everyday life - very natural. It is clear why ballet is Russian art. Life and work here have given me great experience. I saw another type of life and met a bunch of people. I had worked in troupes for three years, visited many cities, and during this time there was a lot of good and bad things. But every time I come to Russia, I feel that this is my second home."