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The Royal Ballet in Japan: Dancer Gemma Pitchley-Gale blogs from Tokyo

The Royal Ballet First Artist reflects on the passion of Japanese fans, the challenges of life on the road, and how dancers spend their time off.

By Gemma Pitchley-Gale (First Artist of The Royal Ballet)

24 June 2016 at 3.42pm | 3 Comments

The prospect of heading out on tour is always exciting but perhaps none more so than a trip to Japan. The Company always look forward to performing in the Land of the Rising Sun, and this trip will be my fifth time dancing there.

After undergoing hip surgery four months ago, I was unsure whether I would make it back to full fitness in time. But after a lot of hard work and rehab I was passed fit and ready just in time for tour.

Packing for tour is always a challenge. It’s a struggle to squeeze a whole month's worth of dance wear, everyday clothes and evening wear for events into a single suitcase. But we do get tour boxes and bags for our stage makeup and ballet shoes, which is a big help.

A long haul flight is not something any dancer enjoys. You dread how your body will feel when you finally touch down. We take lots of precautions like wearing compression garments to help swelling and circulation, melatonin to recover from jetlag and adding hydration tablets to our water.

We opened the tour with Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Theatre. As always, the support from our Japanese audience was incredible. The tour's opening performance was my first time on stage after surgery and I couldn’t have asked for a better reception. I was a little more nervous than usual but once the first act was done it felt as if I'd never been away. After the show we were all overwhelmed by the sea of ballet fans outside stage door, asking us to sign their programmes and taking pictures of all of us, despite the fact it was pouring with rain. Some of them I recognized from my first trip to Tokyo 11 years ago!

Principal dancers are a lot more used to this kind of attention but as corps de ballet members we aren't used to it! It's incredibly humbling when you're asked to sign an autograph or pose for a selfie. Japanese ballet fans truly are some of the best in the world.

After a week spent rehearsing, performing, recovering from jet-lag and attempting to connect to wi-fi wherever possible, we wrapped up the week with a generous party hosted by the tour's promoters NBS (the Japanese Performing Arts Foundation). The party has become a tradition and a great chance to relax after a hard week.

We do have days off, and this year, a group of us took the opportunity to head to Tokyo Disneyland where we had a fantastic time. The theme park is huge and although this meant a lot of walking, it was nice to stretch our legs outdoors. Rest time is hugely important for ballet dancers, especially as we have plenty more shows coming up as we take Romeo and Juliet as well as Giselle around the country.

Further details of the Royal Ballet Tour to Japan can be found here.

For more updates about The Royal Ballet's 2016 Tour to Japan search #RoyalBalletJapan on Twitter and Instagram.

The Royal Opera House would like to thank all tour supporters and Aud Jebsen for her support of the Royal Ballet touring programme.

This article has 3 comments

  1. Lablady responded on 25 June 2016 at 11:41am Reply

    Thanks Gemma for this insight into your tour. I had no idea you actually travelled around once there. Could we have a little map of Japan with your theatres marked where you are scheduled to perform? What a fantastic opportunity for you all, and as you say, the enthusiasm and warmth from your Japanese fans is exciting but also moving? Perhaps we should start waiting for you all in Floral Street after performances (usually in the rain too)? Just because this isn't a tradition, I hope you know how much you are all appreciated and admired at home too? As always we are SO grateful for your hard work, dedication which you all have in spades, on top of quite mind blowing talent. So happy you are fit and back on it. Enjoy the tour and keep blogging! Heather x

  2. Ron responded on 29 August 2016 at 1:54pm Reply

    Wonderful !

  3. Sue Potgieter responded on 16 October 2016 at 3:40pm Reply

    i was visiting my son from south Africa and secured a ticket to R and J in Tokyo.Best night of my life.I wept from the opening bars as this for me was a dream come true. My favourite ballet performed bya company I have dreamed of since I was a child.It was magical.I get goosebumps just thinking about it.Thank you for how perfect you made my trip

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