PRINCIPAL DANCER YUKA IINO'S SWAN SONG
The long awaited February 16 – 23 return of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s celebrated Swan Lake will carry particular significance as the run will include the retirement performances of OBT Principal Dancer Yuka Iino.
Yuka Iino will conclude her nine-year dancing career with OBT at the final performance of Swan Lake on February 23rd. Iino joined OBT in 2003, and was named a principal when OBT instituted an artist ranking system in 2007. She will teach and may continue to perform as a guest artist.
A native of Japan, Iino joined OBT from Reiko Yamamoto Ballet Company where she was promoted to principal dancer in 1996. She is a graduate of the Reiko Yamamoto Ballet School and a recipient of both the 1998 Varna International Ballet Competition Gold Medal (Junior Division), and the 1995 Asian Pacific Ballet Competition Bronze Medal. Iino has had ballets created on her at OBT by Christopher Stowell, Kent Stowell, Yuri Possokhov and Nicolo Fonte; and she danced featured roles in works by Julia Adam, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and William Forsythe. She has received particular acclaim for her dramatic interpretation and the high technical standard of her Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.
OBT Interim Artistic Director Anne Mueller says of Iino,
“Yuka’s arrival at OBT marked a new era for the company. She was one of several exemplary dancers brought to the company by Christopher Stowell in his first year as Artistic Director. From the first program she performed, she set the tone for what great dancing in this era would mean: adventurous, musical, and virtuosic. I have had the immense pleasure of working with Yuka in a variety of capacities and gain respect and admiration for her with each new endeavor we’ve encountered together. Yuka always infuses her dancing with a generosity of spirit and vulnerability that makes each performance not only technically impressive, but artistically meaningful.”
Christopher Stowell says of Iino,
“Yuka auditioned for me with her Gold-Medal-winning Black Swan Variation, making it instantly clear that here was a major talent in the classical repertoire—security, sensitivity, virtuosity, characterization—all in two minutes; also very clearly thought out from both a technical and interpretive standpoint. Knowing that the 19th century classics were going to become a major feature of OBT’s repertoire, I saw that in Yuka I had found a major addition to OBT’s roster.
“What I didn’t expect to find was that she had an equally natural instinct for the work of choreographers she hadn’t had a lot of experience with in Japan. The first thing she did with us was the leading role in Rubies. It was miraculous to see that she was as free and instinctive in the work of Balanchine and Stravinsky as she had been with Petipa and Tchaikovsky, and that she would play a significant role at OBT.
“Her focus and drive never diminish the sweet and supportive nature she brings to the studio. It has been a pleasure working with her this past decade.”
Reflecting on her decision to retire and her future plans, Iino said,
“I was 6 years old when I decided that I wanted to become a professional ballerina. I moved away from my family when I was 12 to live in a dormitory to focus on ballet 24/7. I couldn't have asked for more than dancing as a principal dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre. So much has happened in the past nine and a half years and I am proud to say I have tried my best in every moment. I am so thankful for everything that has happened in my life, and the way I am dancing right now is how I would like to be remembered as a dancer. I've always wanted to finish when I feel at my best and I realize now is that time.
“Teaching at the School of OBT summer intensive this past summer, I had a different feeling inside of me than I have ever had. I've always enjoyed teaching, but this summer I realized that this is what I would like to do in the next chapter of my life. I want to help young dancers who dream of becoming a professional dancer. I want to support them in pursuing even more than what I have accomplished.”
Iino will dance opening night, Saturday, February 16th at 7:30 pm. Her farewell performance will be Saturday, February 23rd, at 7:30 pm, both in Portland’s Keller Auditorium.