Dansomanie : entretiens : Miho Fujii
A Japanese ballerina in Paris
For Dansomanie, Miho meets Miho!
For Dansomanie, Miho met with her namesake, Miho Fujii, the first - and for the time being only - Japanese member in the history of the Paris Opera Ballet.
Miho Fujii : a Japanese ballerina in Paris
Born at Yokohama in the Bay of Tokyo,
Miho Fujii began to study classical dance at the age of three, but it was not until her parents moved to New York, when she was seven, that she began to study seriously, at the American Ballet School. She danced as a child with the New York City Ballet, in
Coppelia and the Nutcracker, and was bitten with the theatre bug. Two years later, when her family moved back to Japan, she began to study at the renowned
Maki Asami School at Tokyo, and also with Reiko Otsuka, another great Japanese
Her first trip to France was at age fourteen, when she took a fortnight's course with
Daini Kudo, a leading Japanese choregrapher. She was noticed by
Yvonne Goubé who was then invited to Japan; shortly thereafter,
Miho Fujii received a three-month scholarship to Goubé's studio at
Unlike most Japanese girls, who are fascinated by Vaganova school's rigours, Miho Fujii found greater affinity with the refined, elegant technique taught at Nanterre, which school she thought to be the best in the world. After reviewing a number of school films, she finally decided to send a video of herself dancing along with a letter, to Claude Bessy, who took her up in the Second Form (the higher the form, the lower the number in France).
Thus it was that she found herself alone in France at the age of fifteen, overjoyed to have been taken up by the school to which she had aspired, but little imagining the trials and tribulations that lay ahead.
Besides her dance studies,
Miho was expected to follow regular academic classes like everyone else. She had to take French alongside the small children in the Sixth Form. Language was a major obstacle for ballet lessons as well, as she often miffed an explanation. Although she did become friendly with two Japanese students who had won a scholarship to Nanterre at the Concours de Lausanne, the French language remained a real
Although far from home and family, and despite all hardship, Miho Fujii never became lukewarm about the dance or the Paris Opera for that matter. In France, a number of Miho's acquaintances took a rather jaundiced view of her future at the Opera. But their less-than-buoyant approach had precisely the opposite effect: she worked twice as hard.
Was Miho ever downcast ? Well, there have been such moments. But she was able to mobilise her willpower and plough ahead, and has in any event "retaliated", so to speak, by mastering the French language.
Miho Fujii is especially grateful to Francesca Zumbo, who has kept on teaching her since the days at Nanterre. «Madam
Zumbo is most remarkable, a professional through and through. For someone like me, who tends to be a shade self-indulgent when it comes to really working on a rock-solid technique, her rigour was indispensable and has helped to bring out the best in me».
Life in the Corps de Ballet
Miho competed in the Concours de Lausanne, and then auditioned for a post as surnuméraire with the Paris Opera, where she was given a three-month contract (a surnuméraire goes on when a production requires extra dancers, or when no replacement is available - editor's note). Following which, she auditioned at the Paris Opera's Concours Externe for foreigners and «provincials» (sic), but was
rejected. Upon which she wrote once more to Claude Bessy, who placed her into the First Form at Nanterre. Miho then auditioned yet again for the Opera's Concours Externe, where she was admitted third out of one hundred candidates. That one-year contract was thereafter renewed thrice, until, following her seventh audition, in the year 2002, she was finally engaged as a full corps de ballet
member. She well recalls the set variation that was her Open Sesame ! - the pas de trois from Act One of
At the Palais Garnier, class is held every morning from Monday to Saturday, and rehearsals go on throughout the afternoon, sometimes until seven-thirty in the evening, especially this past December for
The Sleeping Beauty, and when the Internal Promotion Concours is about to take place. Oddly enough, she feels most at ease on stage, because tension runs very high in the weeks before the Internal Concours. «Rivalry is thick in the air then», but adds that the Paris Opera is nevertheless as much «home» to her as it is to her colleagues, who are also in a way her
family. «Although there is indeed rivalry, nonetheless when things are very hard and we're dreadfully tired, we help and support each
Aspiration and ambition
Miho Fujii would like to dance Aurora or perhaps Manon. The dancers she admires are Sylvie Guillem, Monique Loudières and Aurélie Dupont, and Miyako Yoshida over at Covent Garden. She would like to dance Jerome Robbins' choreography to Chopin's music, such as The concert or In the night, although her personal penchant remains the great classical pieces. As for those who intend to dance professionally, her message to them is: never let the aspiration, the passion, slip away. What she herself aspires to is that her career move onwards and upwards at Paris, and we hope that it come true. In the meantime, Miho is on stage in the Linke / Noiret / Scozzi programme, from February 3rd 2005 on.
translation by Katharine Kanter
Interviewed on January 15th 2005
Miho Fujii – Dansomanie.