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Oklahoma City Ballet’s Principal Dancer To Retire

Oklahoma City Ballet's Principal dancers Miki Kawamura and Alvin Tosvstogray are seen dancing onstage.
Oklahoma City Ballet
Oklahoma City Ballet's Principal dancers Miki Kawamura and Alvin Tosvstogray are seen dancing onstage.

After nine years with the Ballet, Miki Kawamura is stepping down as Principal dancer. She gives her final performances this weekend at the Civic Center in the company’s production of “La Sylphide.”



Claire Donnelly: What is your story? How did you get into ballet?

Miki Kawamura: I was learning keyboard. Not piano, but keyboard. I enjoyed learning how to play keyboard and stuff but I was not good at it. So at that point, when I was 10--no, actually when I was 8--anything to take me out of the keyboard class, I would say yes. So I was like, "Sure, I will go to ballet class." And I went to ballet.

I didn't love it. It was OK. But I couldn't make friends. And only one friend I made, she stopped coming. So I was like, "I don't want to go anymore." So I actually quit for two years or so. And then when I turned 10, I wanted to start back again from nowhere. And I asked my mom if I could go again and she said no. But I just pursued, you know, kept asking and she finally said yes.

Donnelly: Why are you retiring?

Kawamura: There are more than one reasons to why I decided to retire. You know when your peak is. You know, like I felt like I was improving and still kept you know, growing stronger. But I feel like after this point, it's going to go down. And I don't want to dance going down. I would rather have people say, "Oh why is she retiring?" than, "She should retire." Yeah.

Donnelly: When people say "the Principal dancer of the Oklahoma City Ballet," what does that mean to you?

Kawamura: I don't know. I didn't really...like, I am not as outgoing as I should be. So I just...I get shy when people like say great thing about me. You know, "Oh, you're so famous!" You know, some of my friends are like, "Oh you're so famous! I know her! I always tell people I know her!" I'm like, "No, stop it." So it really doesn't define me.

Donnelly: Maybe the better way to ask it is: How do you feel about being the Principal dancer?

Kawamura: To get the title of a Principal dancer...to get the title is easier than to keep it, is how I always took it. Because to keep this position...what matters is are you a role model to other dancers? How do you lead the company? What kind of attitude you show toward younger dancers so they will follow you? So that’s how I’ve always been seeing this title. It comes with responsibility.

Donnelly: What are some of the hardest parts that you’ve danced?

Kawamura: You know, all ballet I did, they were all hard in different ways, different reasons. You’d think, like, I trained classically, so classical ballet would come easily. But maybe it’s not just technique is difficult but stamina-wise, it’s difficult. Or you know, I had a hard time contemporary ballet because I never trained contemporary ballet. So to move freely--classical ballet is really, like square--but contemporary you just have to move. That was really hard. I have never had any ballet that I can say, “Oh, this is easy.”

Donnelly: What is it about ballet for you that just...you love?

Kawamura: Many dancers, I'm sure they loved to move. They love to dance with music. But for some reason, you know, when I was 10, that was not the reason why I really liked ballet, going to ballet classes. Funny thing is, I liked discipline. You know, ballet is all about discipline. And especially in Japan with the culture and, you know. I liked being able to do things that teacher asked us to do.

I love everything about ballet now. You know, I still love taking class because of discipline and you know all that same reasons. And I love dancing on stage and feeling that I get from audience. It's not just me. It's a conversation that I get: me dancing and...you would be surprised how much you feel audience.

Donnelly: How are you feeling about your last performance?

Kawamura: You know, I was really...I was ready. I've been kind of like, counting days until this time. But we started you know, rehearsing on stage. It's kind of like every time I go there, "This is going to be the last time, this is going to be the last time." You know, I'm getting more...it's getting real. So I don't know. I can't say. I thought I was ready and I thought I would be happy, no tears. But you never know what's going to happen when it comes, you know, when the time comes.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.


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Claire has previously worked at KGOU, where she helped create a podcast, How Curious, and hosted local news during Morning Edition. Previously, she was an intern on the city desk at WBEZ in Chicago. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School. Claire has reported on street performers, temp workers, criminal court cases, police dogs, Christmas tree recycling and more.
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