Marina Kanno: "I don’t think that everybody should aim to be a star"


Born in Japan and graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy, today Marina Kanno is a demi-soloist of the Staatsballett Berlin. We had a talk with Marina on her studies in Russia, favourite ballets and choreographers, daily routine and dreams.

Is ballet popular in Japan?

In a way, yes. Many people do ballet as a hobby, we have a lot of ballet schools, many kids like doing ballet as well. But when it comes to professional things, I must say, we don’t have a lot of state theatres. We don’t really have insurance and these security things, and also the payments are not so good, so it’s very difficult to do ballet professionally and earn a living from it. That’s the problem. Sometimes I may have a thought that I want to go back home, because it’s my home country. Yes, I could, but then I will have to find the second job kind of teaching stuff during the time when I dance. Here we concentrate only on dancing, only on the quality of it. We still have different systems of doing ballet in comparison to Europe.

Is that why you moved to Saint Petersburg and entered the Vaganova Ballet Academy?

Not really. Possibly, I always wanted to go outside of Japan to see what’s there. Japan doesn’t have a very big history of ballet, so, to learn it you should go outside one moment. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to enter the Vaganova Ballet Academy. I did the audition in Japan, and they took me, so that is how I went there. My dream was always to stay with the European ballet company, and I stayed there. I’m lucky, I’m really lucky.

You spent two years at the Vaganova Ballet School. What can you say about the methods of teaching among Russian ballet masters?

They were great. It’s the best ballet school I would say. Though I’ve seen many different sites with different school people, but their basic, the way they teach was just amazing, that was what I needed. Always you can add, always you can learn something more from other styles too, but the basic… Also discipline in everything. I would say the Russian school is the best.

Do you think that Russian teachers’ attitude to ballet and teaching is different from teachers’ of other countries?

They were strict, but I always got a lot of inspiration, energy and passion from Russian teachers. I can’t really say if it is a feature of Russia or not, but Russian people are very passionate. They could give a lot of energy, so even when you are tired you want to do more We need to give energy to teachers, but teachers also have to give energy to us. It’s like a catch ball. If I throw, I should get it back. Most of the time I saw a lot from Russian people: they had this energy and this power to give. It seems like it comes from blood, I don’t know, from culture. It doesn’t mean that only Russian people can do these things, because I know many people, there are a lot of amazing people in other countries as well. Besides, Russian teachers always know the exact explanations for any steps and techniques, their corrections are so clear. They can explain the meaning of steps and feelings with no suspects and doubts.

Was it difficult to you to get used to Russian culture at the beginning?

Oh, really. I left at the age of 16 and couldn’t even say “hi” in Russian. I was alone there, because I couldn’t speak the language and couldn’t understand anything, so I was so stressed...

And the Russians usually don’t speak English as well.

I went there about 15-16 years ago, but now, I guess, it must be better. At that time they were closed and quite not nice to foreigners. I don’t know whether this atmosphere is still there: if you are not Russian, you are not good enough to be here. Honestly, there was some atmosphere like that. Just because of this, may be, I had more motivation to learn the language and speak to them… and not to let them talk about me in a bad way (laughing). That was my motivation too, honestly.

Did you take up courses or just speak to Russian people to learn the language?