The Ballet Twins

Koto Ishihara - San Francisco Ballet

Koto Ishihara - born in Nagoya, Japan, has been a member of San Francisco Ballet since 2010 and was promoted to Soloist in 2014.
Koto Ishihara - San Francisco Ballet - BalletFriends
Photo by Zachariah Epperson
If you could describe what type of dancer you are with just three words, what would they be?
Fluid and effervescent both come to mind, so maybe just two..! 
What has been one of your favourite experiences on stage so far? 
When I was asked to dance the role of  “Raku,” choreographed by Yuri Possokhov.
This particular role was originally created on Yuan Yuan Tan who continues to inspire me to this day. The ballet is set within in Japan about the burning of Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion in 1950. Shinji Eshima, the composer of this ballet did such an incredible job collaborating with Yuri. The composition paired with Yuri’s choreography, portrayed this emotional love story that is close to my heart. It was an experience I will never forget.

Koto Ishihara - San Francisco Ballet - BalletFriends

Photo by Jay Devraj

What is your personal strength as a dancer? 
Flexibility and energy on stage..  
Is there a specific choreographer that inspires you? 
Christopher Wheeldon - his ballets always inspire me. He has the ability to invent his own unique world within the theatre. His movements are classical and organic and have a significant energy. 
How would you describe the difference between a rehearsal and a show? 
Rehearsals are time for self-improvement and preparation. It is very important to push your very own limits within the studio, always giving 120% as transferring to the stage is difficult and comes with many more challenges.
Performances are about enjoying the moment. I treasure every performance. Somebody I respect very much once told me, “You always have to think this might be your last performance.”  I have told myself that before going on stage ever since. 
Koto Ishihara - San Francisco Ballet - BalletFriends
 Photo by Zachariah Epperson
Is being a professional ballet dancer anything like you imagined it to be when you were training?
The dancer's life is hard, and it never gets easier. I was in the San Francisco Ballet School Trainee program before joining the company and had a lot of opportunities to work with the company, so I had an idea of what life would like. 
Do you focus on specific exercise along side your daily training, rehearsals and performances? 
I regularly do pilates and exercises for foot strength. I also work on my core stability and back exercises. Swimming can be helpful in additional training.
Koto Ishihara - San Francisco Ballet - BalletFriends
 Photo by Eric Tomasson
Are you conscientious about nutrition and how you fuel your body?
I try to eat a little bit of everything so that my body gets an abundance of nutrients. I also make sure I get an adequate amount of protein in my diet. During performance season, vitamins vitamins vitamins! We absolutely cannot get sick while performances are going on.
How do you go about relaxing and taking time away from your active lifestyle?
I like going to the spa or getting massages. I also like hiking, it is the perfect amount of exercise for a day off. I always listen to my body to see how things are and take it from there.

Koto is featured on San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker poster and will be performing with the company this holiday season from December 13 - 30 at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House. Tickets on sale here

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