One of the most recognisable and well-loved dancers in the country, Chihiro Uchida has brought to life Odette, Giselle, Juliet, Princess Aurora and the Sugar Plum Fairy, among numerous other roles, earning acclaim from critics and young aspiring ballet dancers alike. This April, she and the entire Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) family will do their bit in ensuring that our national dance company continues to flourish, by mingling with guests and performing excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, Incomparable Beauty and Don Quixote at SDT’s annual fundraising gala. In the meantime, we set the SDT Principal Artist these 10 questions.
1. You’ve been with SDT since 2005. How has the company evolved over the last decade?
When I first joined the company, there were only 24 dancers and now, there are 40 of us, so that’s how much it grew. I feel that the arts scene in Singapore has also evolved over the years and the company is more noticeable compared to when I first came. I’m proud to be part of SDT and to be in this position is like a dream. To be able to dance and experience so many beautiful ballets from classical to contemporary is a great opportunity for me.
2. SDT is known for its public outreach programmes. Do you enjoy sharing your love for dance?
I do and I want to share more! I want more people to know about us and to be familiar with ballet. In fact, it’s my dream to do something like that in my home country (Japan)as well.
3. A lot of the dancers hail from all over the world. Does this bring a unique quality to the company?
It does and I think that is the strength of our company. Everyone trains differently and has unique quality of movements. And that makes ballet more exciting and interesting especially in neoclassical and contemporary pieces.
4. At the fundraising gala, SDT will be performing excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, Incomparable Beauty and Don Quixote. What can the audience expect?
The three pieces are all very different and have different vibes. That’s why it’s enjoyable to watch. I’ll be performing a pas de deux from the third movement of Ma Cong’s Incomparable Beauty. His piece, especially this one, is something that I always wanted to be a part of, so I’m very glad that I get to do it this time. We’ll bring the whole piece on tour to Malaysia in May as well.
5. Ballet is incredibly hard work. What makes all the blood and sweat worthwhile?
I simply love and enjoy dancing ever since I started to walk. Dance is in me and it’s part of me. So no matter how hard the training can be and how painful it is, I know I’d never dislike dancing. And also I love the feeling I receive from dancing and performing on stage in front of audiences. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and it’s very overwhelming and very addictive!
6. Of all your performances over the years, which do you cherish in your memory the most?
It will always be my very first performance of being Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty in 2010. Playing Aurora is one of the most challenging things for ballerinas and one of my dream roles. My parents were also in the audience to witness that moment. After the famous wedding pas de deux in Act 3, I heard the loudest “Bravo!” I’ve ever heard in my life from the auditorium and I knew right away that it was my dad’s voice! It echoed through my head. He’s someone who doesn’t show or speak much of how he feels or what he thinks of me so I still don’t exactly know how he feels about me being a ballerina. But that voice from the audience sounded like a huge approval for me. I think that voice explained everything that I wanted to hear from him all these years. My parents still come to see me perform twice every year and I really can’t thank them enough for their love and support.
7. Which character do you love performing most?
I loved performing as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. I think I learnt a lot about portraying a role by being Juliet. I loved portraying her because she is a human being, unlike a swan or a fairy, and the feeling was real. Even though the ending is heart-wrenching, it’s still so beautiful. It was so nice to experience and go through all the different emotions of hers from deeply falling in love to deep sorrow.
8. Are all the SDT dancers as close as they seem to appear on social media?
Yes, we are. We’re great friends on and off stage.
9. Your fiancé Kenya is also a principal artist at SDT. What is it like dancing with him?
Dancing with Kenya is always fun and nice. It’s great to be able to dance with someone whom I really trust and feel the strong connection. I think it definitely makes a performance better when the chemistry is right.
10. Do you do any other type of dance besides ballet?
Nope, but I’ve always wanted to try hip-hop!
Book a seat or table at the Singapore Dance Theatre fundraising gala evening, The Moon and The Stars Gala, on April 28.