On the Side: Yuki Clark

March 31, 2010

When Milwaukee Ballet’s Yuki Clark was a student in Japan, she had a typical bunhead reaction to her first modern class: suspicion. “I remember thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ” she says. “I didn’t want to be a modern dancer, and I felt awkward and uncomfortable. I wanted to go practice my fouettés in the corner!”

But Clark eventually discovered that modern classes made her a more versatile—and marketable—ballet dancer. “I’m a turner, so I’m centered, controlled and square by nature,” Clark explains. “But ballet companies now perform contemporary works that require you to be off-balance and hyperextended. Modern helped me loosen up and become more comfortable taking risks. Now, when Milwaukee Ballet brings in a contemporary choreographer, I can give him exactly what he wants.”

Today, Clark also performs with the experimental modern group Wild Space Dance Company (run by her husband, Rick Clark). The company’s avant-garde, site-specific works take advantage of both her ballet and her modern skills. “Even if you start out as a classical ballet dancer, you never know where you’ll end up or what you’ll be asked to do,” Clark says. “Modern classes help you prepare for the unexpected.”