Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Yoshiaki Nakano on His Choreographic Debut

March 1, 2016

Choreographing for a professional company is a major honor for any dancer. For Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal Yoshiaki Nakano, it’s an even bigger deal: He’s the first company dancer to debut mainstage work during Terrence Orr’s 19 years as artistic director. Nakano’s neoclassical ballet, A Fellow Feeling, premieres Mar. 10-13. For Pointe‘s free bi-monthly newsletter, we spoke with him about this milestone.

How does it feel to make work for your fellow dancers?

It means a lot to me. I always wanted to choreograph on a professional company, so this is my dream come true. It also feels easier here since I already know the dancers.

How did you start choreographing?

My mom was my ballet teacher, and when I was, I think, 16 years old, I had to dance a contemporary piece for one of the biggest competitions in Japan. She couldn’t afford to hire a choreographer, so she said, “You make it.” The process of creating a new piece was actually fun, so I kept choreographing at her studio.

What’s the most challenging thing about this process?

I’m actually in the piece, so when we’re rehearsing, I’m watching and dancing almost at the same time. Sometimes I step back to watch the other dancers, and then I go back and work on my part. There’s a lot of back and forth.

You’ve described your piece as neoclassical. What attracts you to that vein of movement?

Making movement that’s slightly different than classical is more interesting for me. And I’ve danced in pieces by choreographers like Jirí Kylián, William Forsythe and Mark Morris. They’re somewhere between contemporary and ballet, so I got inspired by them.