Chapter 7, Mari Kawanishi: Against the Odds

Dancer with the Berlin State Ballet

My passion has always been to perform. I’m full of complexity with myself so my challenge was more of overcoming the competition feel at auditions. I have been dancing with Staatsballett Berlin for almost 9 years now but I didn’t get the job right away.

Not having the perfect ballet body without sway backs and crazy arches, being small is hard to get noticed at the barre. For some companies, I didn’t even get an invitation to audition for my height being below average. (I am 163.5 cm/5' 4") I have luckily landed in Dresden Semperoper Ballett for an apprentice contract where I believe nurtured me so much with their versatile repertoires. Dancers who moved in a way I’d never seen before therefore matured me as a dancer. It was just pure eye-opening.

But we were around 12 apprentices altogether and no company has 12 full contracts. I wasn’t the lucky one so I had to face auditions again and I knew this time that I wanted to try for private auditions so I get a chance to perform. And Berlin was the first company again I tried for. I feel fortunate to be doing what I love every day. But being in a ballet company is a never-ending competition. We constantly have auditions for new repertoire, and

I think throughout time I’ve learned that the most important thing is to have your own identity and be confident of who you are. That confidence might be the one thing that lets you stand out of a crowd.