by Dr. Christy Rodriguez de Conte
The Tallahassee Ballet celebrates 50 years of dance through the pirouetting precision and poise of talents like Tomoko Takahashi.
A body in motion, as Newton suggests, will remain in motion unless altered by an unbalanced force. Perhaps he had never witnessed the continual combination of strength and balance displayed in the dancer’s body that never stops moving. Inspired by a picture she found of her mother dancing ballet, Tomoko Takahashi has pliéd, chasséd, and sautéd into motion toward her dreams of becoming a principal dancer at a national ballet. Born and raised in Japan, she began dancing at eight, and by the age of eleven, she spent endless hours in the studio building technique. Takahashi admits that, at first, she did not like the tedious nature of learning the basics. Still, eventually, her love and desire to dance became equivalent to breathing. “Without ballet, I don’t feel like I’m alive. For me, ballet is everything,” reveals Takahashi. “Like eating and sleeping, I need ballet.”
Takahashi’s career catapulted when she won the Special Judge’s Prize and Chacott Scholarship from the NBA All Japan Ballet Competition to study at The Hungarian Dance Art Academy in Budapest. Her ability to express herself through motion propelled her internationally as she danced with outstanding companies like, the Columbia Classical Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, and The Israel Ballet. As a principal dancer, Takahashi’s schedule consisted of a cycle of rehearsal, rest, and repeat from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily, dancing in more than 20 performances a month.
Our world has a way of equating femininity with weakness. A ballerina may be characterized as graceful and delicate, but anyone who has witnessed a dancer unwrap their feet can attest to the tale of broken toes and tight tendons that support this fierce art form. For Tomoko Takahashi, fierceness can be accessed through fearlessness. “I’m not afraid of turning or jumping … So many other dancers try to do something like turning or jumping, [but] they are afraid and can’t push,” says Takahashi. “I wasn’t doing anything special … I’m just not afraid.” Like any athlete, she relies on her intense technical training and muscle memory to inform the timing and precision needed in her body to execute advanced dance moves.
This fearlessness has led to unprecedented finesse through her principal performances in classical ballets such as Cinderella, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and many more. One role, in particular, holds a special place in Takahashi’s heart. In 2014, the Israel Ballet commissioned Madame Butterfly as their 30th-anniversary show. With music by Giacomo Puccini, arranged by John Longstaff, and choreographed by Marianna Ryzhikina, the show was exquisite and an almost magical experience for Takahashi. She recalls, “The company just made for me everything, everything! From the costumes, music, and choreography, everything [was made] just for me. It felt so special. I feel like this was my ballet.” Takahashi is drawn to strong technique classics like Madame Butterfly and Don Quixote and revels in bringing the dramatic to the stage, allowing her to share her passion through performance and movement. Takahashi’s presence on stage may stem from fearlessness, but it continues in power.
Time alters perspective. Artists evolve, and the body shifts. Motherhood affects all its own. For Tomoko Takahashi, the role of mother has been another dream come true and one that shapes her future today. Yet, she admits this shift has extended into her approach to dance. “Actually, everything is different … I feel like a different person … Everything has changed. I’m really fighting with my body. Sometimes I’m like, ‘Who is this?’ The mental and physical.” Takahashi continues, chuckling, “Before, I just had to concentrate on ballet.” Although her Husband’s career in academia brought her to Tallahassee, she continues to dance actively. Takahashi credits the Tallahassee Ballet for valuing family and respecting her desire to balance life and art.
The Tallahassee Ballet celebrates 50 years of delectable dance and decades of cultivating an appreciation of dance through performance, community education, and outreach. Since joining the Tallahassee Ballet in 2019, Takahashi has performed as a principal dancer, grateful to be dancing in such amazing shows as Swan Lake. Takahashi plays Princess Swan Oddette, the leader of the swans. With amazing live music and an ensemble of over twenty principal dancers, dancers, and apprentices, Takahashi is excited by what she hopes to bring to the stage. “It’s going to be so beautiful … The whole ballet, everyone has to be really together, the same timing,” shares Takahashi, “In that so short time, there are so many stories and so many beautiful moments.” Tomoko Takahashi continues to dream, with dance at the center. She hopes to dance in life’s beautiful moments for decades and share her love of dance with her two daughters and Tallahassee.
Find out more about the 50th Anniversary Performance.