Chihiro Nukuto, class of 2018; winner of the 2017 Kathryn Ash Scholarship

Chihiro Nukuto © Tomoya Yoshitomi

Chihiro Nukuto is originally from Nara, Japan, and before coming to the School, she graduated from Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya, Japan) in 2014, with a degree in Health and Sports Science; she also holds a teaching license in Physical Education. Apart from her studies in Japan, she was very involved in dance and was a member of the Mukogawa Women’s University Dance Collective. In the Collective, Chihiro studied contemporary dance, jazz, Gaga, contact improvisation, Graham, and Gyrotonic, as well as choreographing her own pieces. There she met Naoko Murakoshi and Masuyo Higashide (both alumnae of the School of TDT) and was deeply inspired by them both. After graduation from the Women’s University, she studied further at dB Academy in Kobe, Japan for eight months. After winning a Dancer Award at the Academy in 2015, she decided to move to Toronto, to enter the School.

“Coming here, I have been blessed with many opportunities to work with professional choreographers, and learned a lot from these experiences. Having the opportunities to perform in several shows has taught me the importance of preparing myself physically and mentally as a dancer. Also, there are many ways to work with choreographers, and sometimes dancers are required to quickly understand the idea/concept and respond with body movements. In the process of creating dance pieces, there are many choreographers who use improvisation as a tool to come up with new movements by giving dancers some tasks. Personally, I didn’t like improvisation before coming here. But at the School, I have learned methods such as focusing on one body part and developing the movement throughout the rest of my body, and hints to research my own way to improvise. I love improvisation now. This is one huge growth that I am proud of.

Chihiro and School students in Graham class with Rosemary James © Cylla von Tiedemann

Since coming to Toronto, everything surprises me, and every day is full of new discoveries – the different culture, education system, life style, languages, and so on. It is important for me to ‘open my eyes and mind’ and ‘be curious at all times’. Watching movies, visiting art galleries, reading books, going shopping, observing people on the streets, watching how animals behave, looking at the city while on trains and buses, all these things indicate that Toronto is different from my hometown back in Japan, and the cultural difference has been creating a huge impact on my artistic views. For example, I enjoy observing people in the city. Their behaviours are different compared to the people from my hometown, due to cultural differences and values, and this interests me enormously. I often capture unique movements performed in daily-life as a picture, and develop those images into dance movements. On the other hand, sometimes I get images from paintings and portraits, and use those captured moments as a tool to create also.

After graduation, I would like to work as a freelance dancer. This is because although I am aware my income might be unstable, it would give me the opportunity to work with many different choreographers and dancers. I am still eager to learn new methods, works, and ways to approach the creation process and widen my possibility as a dancer. Also, I could start teaching dance if I choose to become a freelance dancer. In second year, we started Pedagogy class, and I noticed that I enjoy teaching. I cannot decide yet whether I should go back to Japan, but if so, I could use my license as a Physical Education teacher. If I do end up back in Japan, I want to share my experiences of the many things I have learned about the different culture and environment in Toronto. I have learned not to judge dance pieces or any kind of unfamiliar techniques only from my first impression, and most importantly, I feel that all of my teachers love dance, and love working with the students during class. The teachers at the School of TDT encourage me to raise the bar higher, and it helps me stay motivated at all times. I hope to become a teacher like that. In the long term, I would like to be active as a dancer/choreographer. Although choreography was not my favorite thing to do, working together on pieces with many choreographers at the School of TDT has made me grow more interested in making my own pieces.

My English has improved so much since I first came here, and now that I have overcome some language barriers, I would like to dedicate more time to dancing and helping other dancers in this school.

Sunrise: Louis Laberge-Côté. Chihiro Nukuto, Devon Snell © Cylla von Tiedemann

In my first two years at the School, I worked with several choreographers. For the 2017 spring show, Momentum, our class worked with Hanna Kiel; her piece and work were my biggest challenge so far in my dance life. When she asked me, ‘Can you sing?’ the first time, I just said, ‘Yes’, thinking that she was asking several dancers. Then I realized that I was going to sing alone, in Japanese. I had never sung onstage, and it was at the beginning of the piece, solo, in silence. I decided on the song with Hanna, and I learned it. The song was from the 80’s, and it was hard to sing onstage, but it slowly became more fun through rehearsals and even during show weeks. Hanna also showed us how to push ourselves as dancers, and how to make a good relationship between the dancers and the choreographer. She gave us tasks before every run and every show. That was huge thing for me to learn – to keep remembering corrections and advice. This helped me to feel that I could get better and better every performance. Next year I look forward to working with different choreographers.”

In May 2017, Chihiro was awarded the School’s Kathryn Ash Scholarship. The Scholarship is a merit-based award given to a deserving student going into their final year of study, and is the equivalent to one-half of one year’s tuition. On announcing the award, the panel noted: “Chihiro’s application showed maturity and thoughtfulness; we were attracted to her dedication to her craft, her professional development, and her honest self-assessment. She is curious, investigative, and pro-active in preparing for her future career in dance. Chihiro leads by example every day in her artistic practice. She is a truly wonderful dancer and makes ‘magic’ on stage.”

Congratulations, Chihiro, and have a splendid third year!