Her Instagram page is a collection of flossy photographs spiced up with witty captions that reveal her intelligence and sincerity. She seems to have a really intriguing personality. 22-year-old Sayaka Wakita of the Theater Dortmund is a rare type of a dancer who manages to combine ballet, studies at Harvard University and modelling. She knows her assets and drawbacks and is eager to enjoy life to the full. It was a real pleasure to meet Sayaka in person and work with her during a photoshoot for this interview. Hope you will also enjoy our talk with this interesting person.
Your life and ballet career are surprisingly interconnected with a lot of countries: you have already danced in Japan, Canada, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Germany... What is each country for you? How are they different in terms of ballet?
The emphasis on ballet was very different everywhere I went and was rather difficult for me to deal with. In Japan, I was dancing so freely, not knowing anything about the basics. But in Canada, all of a sudden, I felt trapped and restricted because we were strictly trained based on the Vaganova method where the positions and forms were something I was not used to.
Dancing in Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey were relatively similar and had more pointe work than the work I do here in Germany. I enjoyed and gained the maximum experience out of every place.
How can you describe an audience in the countries mentioned? Is it true that the Japanese audience is different?
In Japan, at least in my experience, it is true that the audience is more reserved and polite when watching and applauding for ballets. In other countries where I have worked in the public sometimes gets so enthusiastic about your performance that the whole theater does not stop shaking. It is truly a different and unforgettable experience.
Do you remember anything striking about your time in Russia?
On my way to work, I was almost devoured by a pack of Siberian huskies who just woke up from hibernation.
What styles of dance do you prefer?
I mainly like neoclassical ballets because it's more exciting to do. A lot of technique is required but it still gives you some room to be yourself and have fun.
You had an experience of dancing the title role in "The Firebird" by Igor Stravinsky. How did you manage to create these ragged movements of a caught bird?
Until the performance day, I was actually not able to execute the character of “The Firebird”. There is something truly magical about being on stage that allows you to become the character of the story. On stage and performances, you are allowed to do anything without anybody interrupting you so I was not scared of fully expressing myself.
What was the last contemporary ballet you were impressed by?
Last year I danced "Alice" by Mauro Bigonzetti which we will dance again this year. I was hesitant at first because dancing bare feet was not my style at all but the more shows we did, the more depth I discovered. The singers on stage bring extra magic too.
What is ballet for you? Pleasure, work, pain, passion or something else?
For me, ballet is learning and discovering new things about yourself every day. Ballet shaped the character and personality of who I am today. I truly believe that it’s not enough to simply love ballet; it has to love you back in order for one to become a successful dancer. And a lot of times you need to be extremely humble about yourself, accept the truth and learn from it.
Do you think "Swan Lake" should have a happy or tragic end?
Tough question. I would say a happy end because there is beauty in forgiving.
Why are almost all ballets about love and death?
Many classical ballets that were created a long time ago are indeed about love and death. I think no matter where you come from, even if you don’t understand each other’s language, one can relate to and understand the beauty and pain that both love and death can bring.
People think that ballerinas are fragile, sensitive and artistic even in real life. Is it true? Can you say that doing ballet has an influence on your life and your ideas about relationship and love?
I think all dancers are fighters, given what they must go through, so I don’t see too many ballerinas who are fragile and sensitive in real life, even though they may seem to be. I think ballet has an influence on my relationship in terms of a busy lifestyle and often long distance relationships. But in the end, it is all a matter of sacrifice and balance.
What is your attitude to ballerinas of the past?
Ballerinas of the past were not so flexible and slim as today but they danced with great emotion, passion and artistry. I feel like nowadays ballet has an unrealistic expectation of having to be skinny which makes dancers be obsessed with shape and form rather than valued expression and artistry.
As I know you quite often visit Berlin. What are your favourite places here? Is it “your” city?
I can’t express in words how much I love Berlin. I feel free to dress the way I want without being scared that someone is going to chase me with a car.
You often take part in various ballet photoshoots. How do you find time for such projects? What else do you do in your free time?
Fortunately, my current company lets us know the days off in advance which allows me to plan shoots beforehand. It depends on the month; sometimes I have no days off because all my days off are busily spent shooting. And sometimes, like now, I reduce the number of shoots because I need more time to study and have other work to do.
What do you think of photoshoots during which amateurs do ballet? What is your opinion about nudity in ballet photoshoots?
I think there are two ways to look at amateurs doing ballet in photoshoots. On the one hand, sometimes I cringe when I see a badly imitated pose. But on the other hand, I see it as a good thing that people are interested in ballet to that extent. It creates a bigger audience and engages the community to be involved with ballet.
As for ballet and nudity, I don't accept any nude shoots for personal reasons. But I respect those that can create art with nudity showing the beautiful human physicality and forms.
Photographer Adil Sunil
Muah Polina Sheriff
We are very grateful to the administration of the Museum of Illusions Berlin for giving us a chance to have a photoshoot in the museum and for their help in making it happen.