NYCB In Tokyo
Over the course of my eleven years dancing with New York City Ballet I have had the pleasure of traveling around the world. I have danced in Athens, Greece; St. Petersburg, Russia; Edinburgh, Scotland; Paris, France; London, England; Copenhagen, Denmark; Los Angeles, Berkley, and Orange County, California; Houston, Texas; Stonybrook, New York; and Tokyo, Japan. While each city and country had so much to offer, Tokyo is definitely one of my favorite places. Sorry Stonybrook.
From the moment you get off the airplane you know you are about as far away from home as you can get. And after a 13-hour flight, food becomes your first priority, but oh the language barrier you are about to encounter. In Paris you can get by easily as a tourist. We’ve all ordered steak au poive from a menu at home. And in Athens you just drop the ‘Greek’ off of your Greek salad and there you go. But try to read a menu in Tokyo and your eyes cross and sometimes you just end up pointing at something and hoping for the best.
This is my third time to Tokyo and I’d like to think that I’ve learned my way around a bit. I haven’t. Tokyo is a dizzying city of perpetual daylight. Is it four AM or 3:45 in the afternoon? Your guess is as good as mine. There also seems to be no separation of indoors or outdoors. I have walked down the sidewalk only to find myself in the basement of a department store, having never passed through a doorway nor taken an escalator. Just like magic, there I am standing next to a mannequin, with an umbrella still opened in my hand.
Aside from its magical sidewalks and never setting sun, Tokyo is an odd melding of the old way of living and a futuristic way of living that the older natives seem equally as confused and amazed by as I am.
It’s where these two completely different ways of life meet that enthralls me the most. In a subway station yesterday, I saw a couple of young kids run into a friend in passing. After catching their friends’ attention, they all bowed to one another. No high fives, no over the top hug-fest that seems to be taking over public schools across America. And most impressive, no fist bump. Oh how I loathe the fist bump. Maybe it’s because I have terrible hand-eye coordination and most of the time I end up punching the other person in the forearm with the strength of a 95-year-old lady, but the fist bump doesn’t seem to have any point. Where is the sign of friendship and respect in an intersecting punch? But a bow to your friends, that is honor.
Headshot by Paul Kolnik.