Kawashima in rehearsal. Photo courtesy Tulsa Ballet

25 to Watch 2018: Maine Kawashima

In a crowded company class at Tulsa Ballet, Maine Kawashima stands out, and not just because of her tiny size. (She's 4'11".) The 22-year-old corps de ballet member is fiercely focused, repeating combinations over and over again with tireless determination. Once class is over, she keeps going, whipping out fouettés.

"She is a technical wizard," says artistic director Marcello Angelini. "But she's also a sensitive and versatile dancer."


Kawashima, who was born in Japan but trained in the U.S., is only a third-year corps member, but she's already a favorite among visiting choreographers. During the company's recent Creations in Studio K program, Kawashima had first-cast featured roles in all three premieres.

Onstage, her almost brutish work ethic allows for utter freedom, whether as a soulful, searching loner in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Shibuya Blues; the lone woman among a posse of tough suits in Young Soon Hue's If; or an assertive demi-soloist in Helen Pickett's abstract Meòul. Her steely technique allows her to fearlessly plunge into movement without sacrificing grace or intention—a choreographer's dream, indeed.


Find out who else made Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" list this year.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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