Departments People — 11 January 2019
The long way from Japan to Miami City Ballet

By Eric Barton

City & Shore Magazine

Satoki Habuchi was maybe 7 years old when a friend started taking ballet lessons. They were taught in the common area of his family’s condominium in Osaka, Japan. Habuchi would play video games in the corner as his friend danced around him.

That continued until the day his friend challenged him to learn a couple of moves. Habuchi stumbled at first, unable to get his feet to do what he wanted. So he kept practicing. He figured he might as well sign up for classes to try to figure this ballet thing out.

It didn’t take long until he was dancing to midnight every night and sleeping through class the next day. Before long, Habuchi knew his future was the ballet. By 14 years old, he had joined a ballet company in Osaka, but he struggled to impress his teacher.

“In Japan, it’s about perfecting tricks,” Habuchi recalls. “You’re expected to jump higher and spin faster. For me, ballet is artistic. It is about the music and feeling it as I dance.”

In 2015, at 16 years old and with little ability to speak English, Habuchi went to New York City, where he joined a ballet school and began auditioning for companies across the country. That fall, he traveled to Fort Lauderdale to watch the Miami City Ballet perform at the Broward Center. On stage was soloist Shimon Ito, a native of New York but of Japanese heritage. He dances like Habuchi, full of feeling rather than the Japanese way. “It was so different than the technical Japanese ballet. It was artistic and beautiful.”

Habuchi, now 20, took a position with the Miami City Ballet, and he continues there this season as a corps de ballet dancer, working alongside the dancer who showed him there’s another way.

 

Miami City Ballet Dances at a Gathering

Features two works by Jerome Robbins. Dances at a Gathering, set to the piano music of Chopin; and the company premiere of Brahms/Handel, a spirited collaboration between two choreographic giants — Robbins and Twyla Tharp. Jan. 11-13 at the Adrienne Arsht Center, Jan. 18-20 at the Kravis Center, and Jan. 26-27 at the Broward Center.

 

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