On Monday, the cast of Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers’s The Sofa welcomed to Seattle Grand Rapids Ballet‘s Yuka Oba and Nicholas Schultz.
This weekend, Nick and Yuka will reprise their roles as The Sofa‘s lead couple.*
It is deeply satisfying to see the puzzle pieces put in place at last. Until the Monday, the four Sofa couples who echo and comment on the central pair—as well as dancing out their own individual stories—have been waiting… …moving around blank spaces (with Olivier or a spare dancer sometimes standing in).
But now with the hub of the wheel in place the whole thing makes sense. And to watch the thirteen minute pas de deux, both moving and funny, of Yuka and Nick, is a delight.
Olivier is pleased, too, at how Yuka and Nick have grown in their roles since they last time they danced the piece in Grand Rapids.
Yuka has a sweet and open smile. Small, precise, full of playful joy, an enchanting lightness, and occasional imperiousness, she dances the role to perfection.
In her second season at Grand Rapids, Yuka was born and trained in Japan, at the Hitomi Takeuchi Ballet School, When I asked her when she first began to dance, she looked a bit puzzled. There wasn’t a first, she always has danced. It was only in high school, though— when she realized she liked performing in front of people—that she decided a ballet career was for her. She had some images in her mind of what she wanted and hoped to visit other places, England and America, to see and learn.
As an aspiring dancer, she won a number of competitions in Japan and soon had her chance to go abroad, studying at the English National Ballet School. While there she “saw amazing dancing” and had many fine examples to emulate. Later on, as a dancer with the Slovak National Theatre, she was discovered by GRB artistic director Patricia Barker and invited to come to America.
Nick, a fine partner, tall, gallant, good-humored and attentive, is the ideal foil for Yuka in The Sofa. Artistically, Nick has been raised and nurtured by Grand Rapids Ballet. He began dance, as he did various other activities like tae kwon do, in free classes, but ballet soon became the one that mostly strongly captured his imagination. At the GRB school from the age of seven, he went through both their junior and senior training programs, joined the company as an apprentice in 2001, and became a full-fledged company member the year after. In addition to various guesting engagements, often with his wife, company dancer Laura McQueen Schultz, he is now one of the mainstays of GRB.
Welcome, Yuka and Nick!
*The Sofa was by commissioned GRB for its MoveMedia festival of new dance in April 1912. It will receive its Seattle premiere as part of Crave More, which opens January 18, 2013 at the former Intiman Theatre (now Seattle Center Playhouse).
Tickets are on sale at: Whim W’Him | Crave More