“Miyako Yoshida tops the list of my idea of the complete prima ballerina,” says Sir Peter Wright, former director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Dame Monica Mason, director of The Royal Ballet, calls her “a unique international ballerina who will be very much missed.” Yoshida retires from The Royal Ballet at the end of the season.
Born in 1965, Yoshida trained in Tokyo and in 1983 won a scholarship to The Royal Ballet School after competing in the Prix de Lausanne. Graduating a year later, she joined the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (now Birmingham Royal Ballet), rising to soloist in 1987 and principal the following year. In all her roles, especially as Giselle and Cinderella, she displayed pristine technique, enhancing it with lyricism, musicality, and featherlike jumps.
In 1995, the much-loved ballerina transferred to The Royal Ballet, where she expanded her classical repertory. Her partnerships with Tetsuya Kumakawa, Jonathon Cope, and Irek Mukhamedov guaranteed sparkling, dramatic performances.
Yoshida was appointed UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2004 and honored with an Order of the British Empire in 2007.
On April 23, Yoshida will dance Cinderella for her London farewell, and her final performance will be Juliet in Tokyo on the company’s tour to Japan this summer. It is expected that she will perform occasionally with K-Ballet (led by Kumakawa) in Japan and continue to coach young students, passing down the experience she has gleaned in her 26 years of performing. —Margaret Willis
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Kwang-Suk Choi is an elegant cavalier whose performances are highlighted by quicksilver batterie, clean finishes, and keen theatricality. When PBT’s season ends this month, the stalwart principal steps from the mists of Swan Lake into a bright future as a teacher.
“He’s disciplined, consistent, and a perfectionist,” says soloist Christine Schwaner, noting her gratitude for his invaluable teaching and coaching skills, especially his advice to work hard but enjoy the onstage rewards.
Choi, 41, joined PBT in 2002 following stints with Atlanta, Oregon, and San Jose Cleveland Ballets. The handsome, broad-shouldered South Korean has impressed with passionate and energetic performances of Swan Lake, Massine’s Gaîté Parisienne, and Petit’s Carmen, a career tour de force. At PBT, he delved into contemporary ballets by Dwight Rhoden, Derek Deane, and Twyla Tharp, shining mischievously in her Nine Sinatra Songs. Although he relished soaring through Septime Webre’s Peter Pan, his favorite role was Don Quixote’s Basilio, in which he excelled.
Choi says he will miss PBT’s daily work schedule but enthuses about teaching at his studio, Pittsburgh Ballet House. He advises dancers to approach retirement optimistically. “You will be pleased when it happens, and the future will be exciting.” —Karen Dacko
Matt Turney (1925–2009)
A leading dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company for two decades, Matt Turney had a distinctive whimsical quality. As the Pioneer Woman in Appalachian Spring, she portrayed inner calm. In Part Real—Part Dream, she had a languid sensuous quality. In A Look at Lightning, Turney’s quicksilver movement defied the eye.
Turney was born in Americus, GA, and grew up in Milwaukee, where she studied with Nancy Hauser. She majored in dance at University of Wisconsin–Madison and toured with a student group. When Turney and I, a fellow graduate from Wisconsin, joined the Graham group in 1951, we were the first black dancers in the company.
Matt danced with many other choreographers, including Donald McKayle, Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, Pearl Lang, Bertram Ross, and Robert Cohan. But she found ultimate satisfaction performing with Graham. Her most challenging and rewarding experience was dancing Errand into the Maze, in which she inherited Martha’s role.
She enjoyed solitude and was a prodigious reader of philosophical thought. After she retired from dancing in 1972, she became a practitioner of reflexology.
Turney was a dancer’s dancer. “The dance poured through me as though something ancient were recurring,” she wrote in Robert Tracy’s book Goddess: Martha Graham’s Dancers Remember. “Afterwards I would ask myself was I dancing or watching or dreaming?” —Mary Hinkson
William Dunas (1947–2009)
Find the Transition for William Dunas, an iconic avant-garde choreographer in the early 1970s, here.
Photo of Miyako Yoshida by Johan Persson, courtesy The Royal Ballet