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Young Okinawan dancing his way to the top

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-07-24

Ballet is an art form where grace, strength, and agility combine to create a unique personal expression that appears to be beyond the capabilities of many of us. To dance ballet is to reach for the stars and float back to earth. Few individuals reach such wondrous heights, but for those who are dedicated, possess the enthusiasm and the talent, they can certainly reach for the stars. For one very accomplished 16-year-old Okinawan boy, the opportunity of a lifetime is much closer to earth.

Yu Egami, a student at Naha International High School, was recently accepted to attend an associated school with the British Royal Ballet Company, one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the world. Yu was chosen from a select group of the world's most talented young ballet dancers to study at the school, after passing an audition this past March. He was also only one of two foreigners to make it to the final eighteen, before reaching the ranks of the most elite.

Yu's accomplishment is an incredible feat for any young man, but his journey to become a professional ballet dancer with the British Royal Ballet Company has only just begun - only two or three dancers from the school succeed in joining a top ballet company each year. While attending the school, Yu will be practicing for up to nine hours a day. The rules are strict and only on Sunday do the students have the day off. Apart from having to meet the high standards set by the school's instructors, Yu will also have to adjust to life in a foreign country. Despite the challenges ahead of him, Yu said that he is looking forward to the experience and to fulfilling his dream.

Yu explained that he owes his sibling credit for becoming interested in ballet. "My older sister first started going to ballet school and I would see everyone when I was waiting for her. It looked like it was very fun," he said. Although Yu enjoyed ballet from the time he began dancing as a small child here on Okinawa, it was actually during a stay in England that the seed for his dream to become a professional ballet dancer was planted.

"I saw the Royal Ballet Company for the first time when I was in fifth grade. We were living in England at the time because of my father's job. I thought to myself that I wanted to someday dance with the Royal Ballet Company. I never forgot that moment."

"Ballet is like matching together the body with the music," responded Yu to the question of why he enjoys ballet. "You can also find ballet in other modern dances - like jazz and aerobics."

Yu explained that to dance ballet, he must stretch everyday for hours. "I have to be very careful of muscle development, which means I can not do many other kinds of sports," said Yu.

He admits that his life has differed a little from his other classmates, but Yu has no regrets. "I've never thought about quitting even once," he remarked.

Yu's ballet instructor, Fumika Morishima, has managed to give her number one student a good sense of discipline, while still maintaining his joy for ballet. Morishima has herself been dancing ballet for 33 years. She knows that the road ahead of Yu is going to be long and hard, but she also has high hopes for him. "I think it's very good that Yu is challenging himself. I am very happy for him; he has wanted to go abroad since the time he came back from England," commented Morishima.

Yu is not the only student of Morishima hwo mmay make it in the very competitive and demanding world of ballet. Miwako Kubota, one of the best ballet performers to have come from Okinawa, is currently dancing with a well-known ballet company in Australia. Kubota also left to study abroad while still a teenager.

In the hot and humid classroom, where Yu has danced under the guidance of Morishima since he was a small child, many other aspiring youngsters are practicing some of the same moves he once did. With the amount of attention Yu has been getting from the media lately, most of them realize what he has accomplished. In their eyes, Yu is already a star.

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