Eri Nishihara in Rex Wheeler's Symphonic Dances. Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

How Richmond Ballet's Eri Nishihara Leapt from a BFA to Company Life

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Eri Nishihara graduated from University of Utah with a BFA in ballet performance in 2016.

As her time in high school drew to a close, Eri Nishihara knew she wasn't ready to dance professionally. She had seen dancers her age from other cities at summer intensives and didn't think that she was up to company caliber yet. "I didn't want to feel like I was having to keep up for a lack of training or experience, while adjusting to a new professional life," she says. Nishihara had trained with University of Utah professors in the past, through summer intensives at Ballet West, and felt that their teaching style would best prepare her for a future career.


Top-Notch Teachers

Nishihara loved the way her professors asked her to think critically. "They really challenge you to think for yourself and evaluate your strengths and your weaknesses, so that when you're being trained, you can apply everything in a way that works best for you," she says.

Nishihara and Marty Davis in Stoner Winslett's The Nutcracker. Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

Favorite Nondance College Course: Kinesiology

"It gives you a better physical understanding of what the body is capable of and how it moves," she says. "It's something every dancer can benefit from."

Learning Versatility

Classes at the University of Utah ranged from Cecchetti to contemporary to Russian to Balanchine. "That challenged me to be a lot more versatile, and versatility is something that comes in handy when you're looking for a job."

Nishihara and Davis in Philip Neal's Gargoyles. Sarah Ferguson. Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

Leaping Into Company Life

During her sophomore year, Nishihara decided to do a round of auditions with some older classmates, thinking the process would be less intimidating with friends. "I got really lucky and was offered a second-company contract with Richmond Ballet," she says. With the help of her professors, she was able to finish her degree remotely while dancing in Richmond.

Advice for Bunheads Considering College

"Don't limit yourself to dance. You get this opportunity when you're on campus to see so many more things, so enjoy being in such a diverse environment."

Latest Posts


Getty Images

How Can I Stay Motivated While Training at Home?

Ethan Ahuero was having a good year: he was in his first season dancing with Kansas City Ballet II and had been presented with the opportunity to choreograph on the second company. "The day before we shut down I had a rehearsal, and I was so happy," Ahuero says. "The piece was coming together and this was the first time I felt really proud of my creative process."

Suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic brought everything to a halt. With the company's season cut short and the studios closed, Ahuero found himself attempting to continue dancing from home, with his choreography project put on hold. Like many other dancers around the world, Ahuero is dealing with disappointment while struggling to stay motivated.

Keeping up with daily ballet classes may feel difficult right now; inspiration can seem hard to come by when you're following along on Zoom and short on space at home. Below are a few simple tips for finding new ways to stay motivated.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
THE GINGERB3ARDMEN, Courtesy Complexions Contemporary Ballet

How Jillian Davis Created Her Own Path to Complexions and Learned to Believe in Herself

It's impossible to miss Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Jillian Davis onstage. Tall and glamorous, her commanding stage presence, luxurious movement quality and intuitive musicality have made her one of the company's standout stars. But her road to Complexions was anything but linear. The 6'2" dancer worked tirelessly over several years to find her place in the dance world, ultimately reinventing herself and creating her own path to success. At a time when many early career dancers may be facing uncertainty, her story shows the power of resiliency.

Davis grew up on a dairy farm in Kutzstown, Pennsylvania, where she studied dance at a local studio and in the Philadelphia area, and took private lessons at home. She also started growing, shooting up seven inches over one summer. At 13, she and her family decided to take her daily training up a notch, commuting 100 miles each way to the Princeton Dance & Theater Studio, where she studied under Risa Kaplowitz and Susan Jaffe. By then she was already 5'7", and she soon realized—especially as she started learning how to partner—that her height might be an issue if she wanted to dance ballet professionally.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Tulsa Ballet in Ma Cong's Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music. Kate Luber Photography, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Updated: Mark Your Calendars for These Online Ballet Performances

Updated on 5/21/2020

Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks