Kawashima in rehearsal. Photo courtesy Tulsa Ballet
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.
My best running buddy was on my left. To my right, a total stranger with whom I'd suddenly become competitive. As the 15-person group headed into a two-minute push, the instructor got hyped, and the remix blasting Rihanna's "We Found Love" transitioned to "Smooth Criminal."