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On the momentous occasion of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 70th anniversary, we took the opportunity to catch up with principal dancer, Kihiro Kusukami. From priouette to pas de deux, Kihiro tells us about his career highlights and Lightscapes: the spectacular four-ballet bill that celebrates the endless possibilities of light, space and the human body.
Kia ora Kihiro, tell us about the Lightscapes programme of ballets, what can we expect at the show?
The Lightscapes program is a great mix of dance styles; there’s classical ballet, neoclassical ballet, contemporary works and a traditional New Zealand piece inspired by Haka.
Lightscapes comprises four different ballets, do you have a favourite?
We’re still learning and working through some pieces so it’s hard to say which one is my favourite, however, I am really excited to perform waltz in Serenade.
This piece is one of the most famous works by George Balanchine. He is one of my favourite choreographers and this is such a beautiful work so it’s an honour to be able to perform this role. I’ve also really enjoyed working with Rebecca Metzger, the stager, and learning the Balanchine style and quality.
I’ve been really looking forward to working with Alice Topp again. She’s an amazing choreographer and human being. I really enjoyed performing Aurum last year, so am keen to tackle Logos with her.
She has an eye for incredible details. I enjoy her process of building the choreography and relationship with your partner and finding those details to add and build on the movement, it feels like a beautiful harmony.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa comes next week, and I’m excited to work with her for the first time and learn from her international experience.
You’ve been with the Royal New Zealand Ballet for the past five years and our sponsored dancer for the past three, what have been your most memorable moments or performances?
This is my second time performing this ballet and last time I performed a different role in the corps de ballet. Something I have loved in the last 5 years of the RNZB is experiencing revisiting a work but doing a different role I had dreamed about last time. It’s amazing to think of all the dancers who have done this role before me. It really feels like an honour to join them.
Another ballet I want to mention, Waterbaby Bagatelles by Twyla Tharp. We tried to perform this ballet several times, but due to Covid, we had to keep postponing it. It was very hard time for me and everyone, but I relearned how lucky I am; like now I can dance anytime, and we were reminded of how many people are involved in creating this art form and that we need all of us to make the great performances we put on. As hard as Covid was, I feel like it brought the organisation closer as a team.
I’ve also been able to tick off some childhood dream roles like Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Albrecht in Giselle and Prince Desiree in Sleeping Beauty.
This year marks 70 years of the RNZB, a huge milestone! What does it mean to you to be part of the Company and celebrating this special anniversary?
I am so pleased to be involved in this amazing year of celebration. The RNZB has such a long and rich history, and the past 70 years have built it up to what the company is today. I’m so honoured to be a part of even a fraction of that history.
Catch Kihiro and the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s season of Lightscapes, 27 July to 12 August.
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