Standout Performances of 2019: Yuriko Kajiya in "Giselle"

December 20, 2019

Houston Ballet principal Yuriko Kajiya wowed audiences in her first go in Stanton Welch’s Giselle in 2016. But her performance at the company’s season opener this September revealed even deeper levels of meaning. All boundless joy and bounce as the smitten village girl (her Albrecht was played by Connor Walsh), Kajiya radiated pure innocence until the mad scene. Her fits and starts took on an unpredictable and macabre essence, which was both thrilling and a presage for what was to come.

Yuriko Kajiya, wearing a white Romantic tutu, balances in arabesque behind a kneeling Connor Walsh. He wears a dark blue jacket and light blue tights.

Kajiya and Walsh in Act II of Stanton Welch’s Giselle.

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

As a wili in Act II, Kajiya appeared made more of air than flesh, floating like a swath of untethered tulle while rendering a ghostly gravitas. Kajiya also navigated the technical aspects in such a way that clarity and character merged in service to the role, carrying the Romantic arc of love to betrayal to forgiveness through a flawless performance. Her Giselle was not a victim, but a force for transformation and transcendence.