Culture

Meet the Royal Ballet’s Newest Star

Akane Takada brings her unique style to the winter season in London.
Photographer: Gareth McConnell

Every June, toward the end of the spring season, dancers at London’s Royal Ballet have wrap-up meetings with company director Kevin O’Hare. This summer first soloist Akane Takada was last on the list to speak with her boss.

She soon learned the reason for the delay. O’Hare was promoting her to principal dancer, the top position in one of the world’s most prestigious companies. “I stopped and covered my mouth for a second and then started crying,” Takada says. She was, after all, only 26 years old, seven years younger than the average principal dancer. “I think I literally said, ‘This is too soon!’ ”

Takada grew up in Tokyo and from 2006 to 2008 attended the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, where she learned to focus on technical aspects such as her jump. After winning the prestigious Prix de Lausanne Scholarship, she joined the Royal Ballet in 2009. Here she was taught to focus on upper-body gestures and what she describes as “the musicality” of her movements. Her style, then, is something of a hybrid, combining physically demanding jumps with a lithe, almost languorous beauty of motion.

This winter, you can see Takada perform in two works by the Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer, Wayne McGregor, and in the starring role in The Sleeping Beauty. $2,628 for premium membership, $168 for orchestra stall seats

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