Momoka Matsui is a tiny tornado of a ballerina. She leaps and twirls across the stage with such energy that you cannot take your eyes off her, despite her youth and small stature. At 22, Momoka is still at the beginning of her dance career, which started right here at CBJ. “My teacher Jeremy recommended me for this company,” she says, referring to Jeremy Nasmith, who was a soloist at the National Ballet of Canada before travelling to Momoka’s home country of Japan. “Jeremy was a guest instructor at CBJ. He said my character and my dancing would fit very well for them and so he introduced me. I sent a video and resume and then I came to Junior Company.”
And Jeremy was right. Now entering her fourth season with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, Momoka has danced many solo roles in CBJ’s productions, including the Blue Bird in Sleeping Beauty, Lead Fairy in Cinderella, and most recently the Neapolitan Dancer in Swan Lake. When asked what drew her to the company, Momoka responds easily. “The first time I saw this company perform I really liked it. I was training in Canada for two months with Jeremy and then I had the chance to see BITS (Ballet In The Studio), they did Romeo & Juliet and Bouffonia. It was so cool! I said “wow it’s amazing, I’ve never seen before this emotion and feeling!” I wanted to dance with them. Every company has a different style, some are more strong in technique, some do more contemporary dance, here their dancing is so much more emotional; it’s like acting, you become the character.”
Momoka has come a long way since she entered CBJ’s unique Junior Company, fresh out of dance school in 2014. “Junior Company was very different because it is to get you ready for a real company. It was like school because I had a teacher, but it depends on the dancer to respond to the teaching and get better, so I really have to push myself.” A five week summer intensive, Junior Company aims to push young dancers, working with professional choreographers in multiple styles of dance, all leading up to a showcase at the end of the program and the chance at a contract with CBJ. Momoka remembers her time with Junior Company fondly, becoming very animated as she described the challenges she faced as classically trained ballerina.
“As a dancer, you have to fit the colour and style of the company you’re with. In CBJ we trained in a lot of places: Russia, Paraguay, Japan, Cuba etc, we all have different styles, but on stage we have to be the same. And that’s hard, you might learn something one way, and that’s not wrong, but you have to change to fit the company so you have to be smart. I learned that in Junior Company.”
Since the 2017 Junior Company students have started this week, I asked Momoka what advice she has to offer these new students, and she emphasizes growth as a dancer again. “The teachers want to see who can improve the most, so you can’t really compare yourself to the others and say “I’m so bad, she’s much better” or “I’m better than her so I don’t have to work as much” because they want to see how much you improve. Just focus and work hard on taking their corrections.”
Looking forward, I asked Momoka where she sees herself in the future, what are her plans?
“Next season is my fourth year with the company. In my first and second years I just wanted to fit with the company so I worked hard at that. Still, I know I haven’t learned perfectly this company’s style yet, like Saniya (Abilmajineva) and Taylor (Gill), they know Bengt’s style very well and they know what he wants and that shows in their performance too. It’s from their heart, not just focusing on technique, which is so cool! In Japan some dancers are very good, their technique is beautiful and they can turn like crazy and lift their legs so high, it’s so good but I can’t feel anything from them. It’s just beautiful but like a mannequin. It’s so different here, in this company, and I want to be like that. I think too much when I’m performing so I want to feel more to be a better dancer. But I’m still young, I don’t have a lot of experience, I don’t know what it’s like to be sad or heartbroken, so I want to experience more in my life and learn more to be a better dancer.”
Look forward to seeing Momoka on stage in Anastasia!
Our anniversary marks 30 years of supporting young artists like Momoka and helping them to achieve their goals. Please consider joining us in our 30-year birthday celebration with a gift of $30. Until July 31st, KPMG is generously partnering with us to match all gifts up to $5,000.