Way back in 2013 I wrote a post asking when we would next see a Japanese principal (the highest rank) at the Royal Ballet. Well, the 2016/17 season is the answer. And it’s not just one either – a bit like buses, it seems, you wait ages and then two come along at once. But the dancer I picked in my 2013 analysis of runners and riders isn‘t one of them. Want to find out who is? Then read on.
Let’s start with the surprise omission from the list. Despite strong support from ballet fans, Japanese/Korean dancer Yuhui Choe didn’t make the cut, but we still have hopes for this popular dancer.
Nor is it Hikaru Kobayashi, who is married to Royal Ballet principal Federico Bonnelli. But that’s less of a surprise as she was away having a baby daughter, Juna, in 2015 and has only recently returned to the company.
So who was successful? The announcement, published on the Royal Opera House website on 10th June, lists four names – Alexander Campbell, Francesca Hayward, Ryoichi Hirano and Akane Takada.
Of the four the most meteoric rise has been that of English dancer Francesca Hayward, who joined the company from the Royal Ballet School in 2010/11 and became first artist in 2013, soloist in 2014 and first soloist in 2015. She’s been attracting a lot of attention recently, especially in Kenneth MacMillan’s The Invitation in the 2015/16 season.
Akane Takada, from Tokyo, a former pupil at the Hiromi Takahashi Ballet Studio, has risen nearly as fast. She got a Prix de Lausanne scholarship with the Royal Ballet in 2008 and then became an artist in 2009. She was promoted to first artist in 2010, soloist in 2011 and first soloist in 2014.
Ryoichi Hirano joined the Royal Ballet on a Prix de Lausanne scholarship in 2001 and became an artist in 2002, first artist in 2007, soloist in 2008 and first soloist in 2012. He has steadily grown in ability over the past few years and it’s good to see him reach principal.
The fourth promotion, Alexander Campbell, is more of a surprise, perhaps because he’s not been with the Royal Ballet all that long. He trained at the Royal Ballet School and danced with Birmingham Royal Ballet before returning to the Royal Ballet as a soloist in 2011. He was promoted to first soloist the following year.
The Royal Ballet have just completed a successful tour in Japan, taking in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nishinomiya (Hyogo Prefecture), Nagoya and Fukuyama (Hiroshima). Akane Takada, Ryoichi Hirano and Hikaru Kobayashi all took part in the tour, along with Federico Bonelli. The couple took their daughter on tour with them, as did dancers Stephen McRea and Elizabeth Harrod.