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Japanese dancer Kaori Ito chosen to lead the French Theater Center for the first time

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kaori Ito

Dancer and choreographer Kaori Ito has become the first Japanese director of the Center Dramatique National de Strasbourg-Grand-Est, a regional base in France that supports the arts.

Ito is one of the few Japanese dancers and choreographers with a successful career in Europe. She accepted her new position in January.

“I believe that dance can heal the world,” she said recently in an interview, looking straight ahead with a dignified expression.

Ito first attracted public attention at the Yokohama Dance Collection competition in 2002, performing in works by world-renowned choreographers. In 2015, she launched her own dance company, Hime, in France.

There are about thirty national theater centers in France, and obtaining the position of director of the center in Strasbourg was a major challenge. Ito was asked to present concrete project plans for 10 years. She is responsible for both the creation of new works and the general management of the theater.

Ito is currently working on a project on the theme of kintsugi, a traditional Japanese restoration technique that gives broken objects new value.

“The more people who have been injured can show their wounds, the stronger they can become. This could fix a broken society,” Ito said.

A native of Tokyo, Ito was born to parents who are both sculptors. She has had strong feet since childhood and started studying classical ballet at the age of 5. Gradually, however, she began to question the traditional practice of whitening the skin with makeup and wearing blonde wigs in the ballet world. Around that time, she met people like dancer Min Tanaka who inspired her to pursue her own signature dance style.

Ito’s doll-like movements, born from her physical strength and keen sensitivity, have led to her being called a “sexy insect.”

Ito was recently surprised during a conversation with a toddler who said, “A praying mantis can save the world.”

“Children have wonderful imagination and innocence,” Ito said. “I want adults to have that kind of imagination. I believe that dance has the power to change the atmosphere and soothe our minds and bodies.” Ito’s words and actions are full of vitality and she thinks outside the box.

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