Why company member Akari Ida chose ballet and continues to love it
By Jv Ramos
Ballet Manila’s 23rd performance season Tour de Force put a spotlight on a handful of Japanese talents who have the Philippines their home for the love of dance. Among them is fresh-out-of-high-school Akari Ida who, despite having no prior company experience, delivered unforgettable interpretations of iconic classical ballet characters such as Gamzatti in La Bayadere and an Odalisque in Le Corsaire.
“I can’t believe that one year has passed since that April,” says Akari, 19, recalling the moment she first stepped into the company studio to take part in Ballet Manila’s summer intensive program. “Time flies so fast here. The past year has been so intense for me, with so many great experiences. ”
Born in Saitama, Akari was only two years old when she expressed interest in ballet. “I saw my older sister dancing ballet, so I wanted to do it too. But since I was too young, I had to wait for a year before I started. I never stopped since.”
In Japan, the elders advise their children at an early age to choose an activity they’d like to master and grow in. “I decided that my one activity would be ballet, and I’m very glad that it turned out to be something that I enjoy,” shares Akari.
Since growth and mastery were her goals, Akari soon opened herself up to ballet competitions, joining her first such event at age nine, in Japan. In her teenage years, she continued joining more ballet competitions, some of which brought her to other countries.
“My career really is simple,” she claims. “I learned ballet in Japan, and then traveled to Thailand, Australia and Malaysia for competitions. It was in the 2017 Malaysian International Ballet Grand Prix where I met Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. She then invited me to come here a year after and I went for it.”
Asked what her parents thought about the Philippine prima ballerina’s invitation and their daughter’s decision to accept it, Akari admits that they were worried, but like her, knew that moving to the Philippines for ballet was something she needed to do.
“At the age of 15, I decided that I would become a ballet teacher,” reveals the ballerina. “I then realized that in order to become a good teacher, I needed [professional] experience first. To become a ballet teacher really was the original dream.”
This dream to be a teacher may have evolved into something else after dancing professionally for a year. Akari underscores that her dancing days with Ballet Manila are her best ones yet. “I really like performing more than competing. When you compete, all you think about is not making a mistake. Performing really is the only time that I really get to enjoy myself.”
“I still remember when I first performed La Bayadere with Joshua Enciso. I couldn’t sleep after that show because I enjoyed every second performing on stage. It made me really happy. It makes me happy until now. I’m really glad that I was able to dance that.”
Still gushing about the memory of that performance, Akari however adds that before every well-executed number comes many moments of struggle. “I’ve faced those moments wherein I wanted to give up on ballet already. But I would just let myself think that maybe I can do it tomorrow, that maybe today is just a bad day for me.”
Being the deep thinker that she is, Akari puts forward, “All things, after all, have their bright side and a shadow side, which are always together. You can’t be entirely happy in ballet since it involves hard times. And it can’t all be bad days, because there are fun and happy moments on stage after those.”
She concludes, “That’s what I love about ballet, really. It teaches you personality and humanism, and here, I am able to grow as a person. Ballet is more than just dancing. I’ve been through so many great experiences because of it.”
Satisfied with how her first season has turned out, Akari looks forward to many more dances that she’ll learn and perform with Ballet Manila.
“My advice for young ballerinas? I’ll tell them what I always keep in mind – that after all the hard things, there will be fun and happy moments.”