Houston Ballet Principal Yuriko Kajiya's Style Is Infused With Selections From Abroad

Amitava Sarkar for Pointe

Though she's lived in the U.S. for 14 years, Houston Ballet's Yuriko Kajiya still does most of her shopping at home in Japan. “It's always fun to go shopping with my mom," she says. “We're like girlfriends." When her busy rehearsal schedule prevents her from making a trip in person, she asks her mother to send clothes in the mail. Kajiya likes simple, sophisticated pieces that add height and length. “As a ballerina you're always trying to make your lines look longer," she says. “I think that translates to street fashion for me." In her rehearsal wear, she keeps her partners in mind. “I definitely think about what I have to rehearse that day and try to be considerate," she says. That means choosing leotards with cotton in them (they slip less), and functional styles. “Leotards with really low backs are very pretty, but I only wear them in class," she says—it's harder for a partner to have a firm hold on bare skin. Above all, she tries to keep her look original. “I want to be a little bit different," she says. “I think that's another reason I like to shop in Japan."


Amitava Sarkar.

The Details—Street

Sweater from Japan: “My mom sent this to me. I love the flowiness. It reminds me of something I would wear onstage for sure."

Heels: “I rarely wear flat shoes. I think with my hyperextension, it's easier to have a little bit of a heel."

Morpho bag: “When I was younger, I loved the concept of wearing black because it looks more adult, but now I enjoy playing with color. I use a bright red bag to have a little pop."


Amitava Sarkar.

The Details—Studio

Chacott leotard: “Chacotts are from Japan, and they're beautifully made. They're very delicate and soft on your skin."

Tutu: “When I left American Ballet Theatre, the dancers chose this for me as a gift. It makes me feel good because of all the memories." Kajiya removes her warm-ups for rehearsal so her lines are more visible.

Capezio pointe shoes: “Your feet change as you get stronger and older, so my special order is slightly different every year."

Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

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. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

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