Talented dancers from around the world gathered in New York last month for the finals of the 2015 Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition, including 16-year-old Yu Kurihara, who took the stage on April 15 to perform an elegant solo from the famous ballet "Paquita" as her last performance in the competition.
Toward the end, she tottered briefly after a turn. "I was surprised at my mistake," Kurihara recalled, "but I thought, 'The audience will support you, so keep going.'"
Maintaining her dignity and grace, she danced through to the end and took the gold medal in the senior women's classical dance category.
It was Kurihara's first international competition, but she stayed calm amid the tense atmosphere and didn't let the audience down. Such composure gives us a glimpse of future greatness.
Born in Osaka Prefecture, Kurihara began studying ballet in her first year of primary school. She moved to Tokyo in sixth grade when her father was transferred there for work.
Kurihara was a prodigy who could master any technical element of dancing, so her teacher, Ikuko Watanabe, focused on developing her internal qualities. They discussed the appeal of the ballets she learned, and Watanabe gave Kurihara opportunities to think about how to achieve the best expression.
Kurihara is studious herself, saying: "I watch ballet videos to research which dances suit me best. Sometimes I watch too much and it gets very late at night."
She is currently under the additional tutelage of Asami Maki, who has nurtured many famous dancers. Through that connection, Kurihara has also danced professionally.
Despite having such expe-rience, she participated in the US competition because she still wants to learn a great deal. She will use the competition's scholarship system to attend the Royal Ballet School in Britain.
"I want to be a dancer with great artistry who can move the audience," Kurihara said.