Madoka Kariya’s dance diary

Madoka Kariya’s dance diary in Japan

text en photos: madoka kariya

These days, Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) performs almost as often abroad as it does in the Netherlands. For the first time in thirteen years, the company will perform once again in Japan. For NDT 1 dancer Madoka Kariya, who was born in Japan, this is a very special experience. At the request of Dans Magazine, she kept a diary.

June 9, Sunday
Today, the NDT 1 tour to Taiwan and Japan is already beginning for me. I’m leaving for a press conference in Tokyo with artistic director Paul Lightfoot. It feels strange because I usually travel with the entire company.

June 10, Monday
After an eleven-hour flight, we finally arrive in Tokyo. The rainy season has just started, so it is raining and it is very stormy. At tonight’s dinner, we will meet the Japanese delegate and international tour manager. I’m really looking forward to that! As a dancer, I don’t often have to opportunity to talk to the people and programmers who invite the company to perform shows abroad. It is interesting to hear about all of the preparations. I’m really looking forward to the tour!

I am deeply touched to hear that Japan has waited for us all this time and that the audience can’t wait to see us again!

Madoka Kariya
At the Dutch Embassy.

June 11, Tuesday
Today, the press conference will be held at the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo. It is a beautiful building with a gorgeous garden. The ambassador gave us a warm welcome and tells us about the building’s history. There are some special guests, Megumi Nakamura and Kenta Kojiri, two Japanese dancers who have danced at NDT in the past. I feel honored to meet them and to hear their stories about NDT. Additionally, approximately fifty journalists, critics, and other guests are present. The press conference goes very well. I met many new people. Some guests are following NDT since the time that Jiří Kylián was artistic director and the company often went on tours in Japan. NDT’s last visit to Japan was thirteen years ago. I am deeply touched to hear that Japan has waited for us all this time and that the audience can’t wait to see us again!

June 24, Monday
Having toured for two weeks through Taiwan, we will travel to Nagoya in Japan today. When we arrive, it is dark.
I’m exhausted and go to bed straight away without going out for dinner.

June 25, Tuesday
Today is a day off and I wake up so hungry! I go outside for some coffee and am served a complimentary breakfast with toast and egg. Apparently, in Nagoya, it is customary to offer breakfast deals in cafes. After this, I visit Astuta Jingu, a beautiful, ancient Shinto shrine surrounded by a large forest, with Aram and Spencer, two other NDT 1 dancers. It is a wonderful place. Although it is situated in the center of the city, it is quiet, calm and green. In the evening, I go out with a group of twelve dancers to eat the specialty of Nagoya. Hitsumabushi is a dish made with eel and rice that can be eaten in three different ways. It was delicious!

June 26, Wednesday
Finally! It’s the first day of work in Japan! After a day of traveling or rest, it always feels great to dance again. We start the day with a ballet class, followed by a general rehearsal of three of the four works that we will perform in Japan: Marco Goecke’s Woke up Blind, Crystal Pite’s The Statement, and Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s Singulière Odyssée and Shoot the Moon. I had a studio rehearsal of Shoot the Moon. The last time I danced this ballet was over three weeks ago, during the Dutch tour of Sol & Paul XXX. It feels good, but it doesn’t come quite naturally yet. This is why the rehearsals are so important! After this, I look at the general rehearsals of the other works. I’m amazed at how large the auditorium is. The Aichi Art Center is a huge theater! Meanwhile, Bert (de Boer, the NDT physiotherapist. Editor) takes care of my body. Having a physiotherapist join us on tour is fantastic, as I can see him during short breaks to make sure that my body remains in good condition.

With the physical therapist, Bert de Boer.

A few seconds before the performance starts, I realize, ‘Now I am really in Japan,’ and I feel a little shaky.

Madoka Kariya

June 27, Thursday
Today, we are having the general rehearsal of Singulière Odyssée. We can’t have a run-through, because there were some issues when setting up the lighting and during the spacing. Theaters abroad are very different from the Zuiderstrandtheater in The Hague. They are bigger or smaller, and dancers also always feel different. Luckily, the issues are quickly resolved, and we are ready for our first performance tomorrow.

June 28, Friday
The first performance in Nagoya is an afternoon performance for at least a thousand school pupils. My parents are also in the audience. A few seconds before the performance starts, I realize, “Now I am really in Japan,” and I feel a little shaky. Luckily, everything goes well. It always feels great to dance with my colleagues. I hope that after today, the students will go to the theater more often.

June 29, Saturday
The second, and final, performance in Nagoya is today. I will dance Singulière Odyssée en Shoot the Moon. No matter where I am, I always will nervous in a good way before dancing Shoot the Moon. However, my colleagues and I are distinctly aware of the circumstances, such as the moisture, the heat, and the new floor. I feel that these things make everyone feel a bit more tense than usual. However, the performance goes very well, and I am even enjoying myself even more than I was yesterday. I am so happy to be in my home country with NDT!

Group photo in Nagoya.

June 30, Sunday
We are traveling to Yokohama by bus. Although it is raining, the mountainsides are green and beautiful. It’s a shame that we couldn’t see Mount Fuji due to the weather. This long day of traveling has worn me out and I realize that I haven’t eaten enough vegetables today. So, at night, I go to the supermarket and prepare a large salad in my hotel room. This is also a part of tour life.

July 1, Monday
Although the company has a day off, very early in the morning, I leave for Tokyo with Yukino and Rinako, the other Japanese dancers, for a photo shoot for a web magazine in which our performances in Yokohama are announced. The photo session is a combination of dance and fashion. We have a professional stylist, make-up artists, and a hairstylist. I can’t wait to see the results! For the rest of the day, we go shopping in Tokyo. In the evening, I invite a couple of dancers to join me for dinner at the sushi restaurant family of mine runs. It was really a fun day!

July 2, Tuesday
The time has come to have our first day of work in Yokohama. We have until the performance on Friday, so we already begin to rehearse ballets that we will perform during the next season. Several dancers who will leave the company give instructions to colleagues who will later take over their roles. We are also working very hard on Kunstkamer, the jubilee program that we will perform to celebrate NDT’s sixtieth anniversary. During this tour, we are also working on new ballets that we will dance later this year.

The theater in Yokohama

July 5, Friday
This evening, we will have our first performance in Yokohama. This city is near Tokyo, which is why many of my family and friends from the capital city are in the audience. Even some friends from my hometown of Sendai, 400 kilometers away, are there.
In the morning, before Anders Hellström’s ballet class begins, I buy him a birthday cake because it’s his birthday! This afternoon until four o’clock, we will have our general rehearsals of Woke up Blind, The Statement, and Shoot the Moon. Before our performance starts at seven o’clock this evening, I eat and rest a bit. I’m not usually very nervous before I perform, but I do prefer to have enough time to prepare my make-up and hair. This is why, at around half past five, I am the first to arrive in the dressing room.

Especially tonight, having so many acquaintances in the audience, I realize that I really am in Japan. I stick to my routine so I can stay as calm as possible. I want to enjoy dancing in Japan as much as I can and don’t want to get the jitters on stage. And I enjoy the performance so much! When I’m on stage dancing with my colleagues, I very much realize that I’m giving a performance. But it could have been anywhere in the world. I fully lose myself in the moment. After the performance, a lot of friends and family come to see me with excitement. Someone I had never met before even comes over to thank me!

After the performance.

I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so much talent and wonderful people at NDT.

Madoka Kariya

July 6, Saturday
Today is the last performance in Yokohama and also the last workday of the season! As usual, the day kicks off with a ballet class, and Anders is teaching his last ballet class today. Because he is a wonderful coach who really cares about the dancers, I love his classes and rehearsals very much. The applause at the end of the class is never-ending. Shortly after that, I get ready for the matinee performance at two o’clock. I hear that the performance, including the places in the standing area, is completely sold out. It all goes so fast. For some reason, matinee performances seem to finish sooner. The programme’s second ballet is Marco Goecke’s Woke up Blind. It features many dancers who are leaving the company after this season ends. I stay backstage to watch their final performance. It’s always a bitter sweet feeling to see a dancer’s final NDT performance. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so much talent and wonderful people at NDT.
Shoot the Moon is the final ballet of the evening. I really enjoy it. After the performance has finished, I feel emotional, but at the same time relaxed, as the tour in Japan has come to an end. When all dancers, together with Paul and Anders, bow to the audience, they award us with a standing ovation, and the entire audience is smiling at us. I feel so much love and appreciation for all of my fellow dancers, the artistic team, as well as for everyone who has worked so hard to make this wonderful tour in Japan a reality.

Now it’s time for the summer holidays!

The season is over!

This interview appeared in the anniversary issue of Dans Magazine, which was specially devoted to the sixtieth anniversary of Nederlands Dans Theater.