In this series, Juliette Sivertsen interviews people who live and breathe wellbeing. This week, Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Kihiro Kusukami shares how he stays in peak condition to soar through the air.
Dancing can feel like a marathon. As soon as the rehearsals start we're focused on the upcoming performances and getting stage-ready. Then we don't stop running until the end of the last show. Physically it's a really hard job but I'm pleased to be a ballet dancer. Even though there are hard days in the studio, I get my motivation from performing.
I especially enjoy performing emotional pieces, dancing with a story. I love acting on stage and when I get fully immersed in dancing the character, the physical side and the steps follow naturally.
After a good show, I feel more happy than exhausted. But, even when I have a show where I believe I could have done better, having people I've never met come up to me after and tell me they enjoyed my performance makes me feel amazing and even more motivated to do better the next show. Performing makes me feel proud of my art, like all the hours spent sweating in the studio are worth it.
I try to eat a lot of protein with every meal for muscle recovery. I probably eat 20-30 eggs a week. Because my daily schedule is so physical, I snack as much as I can in between rehearsals. I cook most meals and eat a pretty balanced diet, plenty of fruit and vegetables. I still enjoy some treats, like a glass of wine on the weekend or going out to eat.
Performance days can be long, with class and rehearsals or a show in the morning/afternoon and a show at night. For a night show, I like to have a nap a couple of hours before the performance, then a coffee when I wake up. Then I'm refreshed and energised, ready to perform.
You need to be fit enough to keep up with the intense daily physical load of ballet, but also need to cope with the mental side. Sometimes you can be having a bad day but no matter how frustrated you are, you have to be able to push those feelings aside and perform whatever character you're portraying. The audience has come to see us perform and act; if we bring our outside frustrations to the stage, it ruins the magic of the ballet.
I've had injuries in the past that have put me out for several months, so I need to build strength now and take care of my body so that when I have the opportunities to perform bigger roles, I can do so without getting injured. Daily ballet class is really important; good basic technique can help prevent injury. Our director, Patricia Barker, has transformed my technique so much since I joined this company, in a way that has helped me gain strength and avoid injury.
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I really enjoy jumping, especially grande allegro, which are big jumps. I wasn't very good at jumping when I was younger but watching a lot of famous male dancers online inspired me and I worked hard at improving my allegro. Although it's pretty exhausting, I love the feeling of soaring through the air.