This month, Milton Keynes Theatre welcome English National Ballet with Le Corsaire, a swashbuckling romp set to a romantic score played live by English National Ballet Philharmonic. Hokkaido-born Ken Saruhashi is part of the principal cast, we interrupt his lunch break to discover more.
So, you’re on a break from Le Corsaire rehearsals…
I was actually rehearsing Cinderella, which we’re doing as well as Le Corsaire – we’re also rehearsing Giselle.
Giselle’s a heart wrenching story…
Yeah, after we finish performing it, I’m exhausted. Not just physically but mentally as well.
By comparison, Le Corsaire is quite jolly.
It’s like night and day!
How do you approach rehearsing three ballets at the same time?
I look at them all in completely different ways, but if there are hints of a character in one that I can use in another, I will. They shouldn’t be completely separate, but I’m trying not to mix up too much.
Which of the three is the most challenging?
I don’t want to sound too jolly about everything but I do have fun doing all three, so it’s not really challenging for me.
What other dance did you do before you got into ballet?
None – I started ballet when I was six. I came to England to train when I was 17, until then I was at a private ballet school in Japan. I played sports as well though – I was a pretty active kid.
So ballet brought you to England...
I didn’t think I was going to be a professional ballet dancer until I came to England to study. Of course I wanted to come here, but the biggest reason I came was the people around me encouraging me to do it.
What’s the difference between ballet here and in Japan?
In England ballet is much more recognised as an art form and a job.
Are the methods of training and teaching different?
It depends on the ballet school you go to in Japan. I studied Vaganova, a Russian method, and then I came here where the style was quite different – I had to change a lot.
Did it take some time to settle in the UK?
When I joined ballet school here, there were many students in the same situation as me: people who couldn’t speak English at all. Straight away we started trying to communicate with each other, so I didn’t feel alone. All my friends were my friends from day one. I never felt homesick.
You also teach.
I love teaching. I go back to Japan once a year and teach at my old ballet school.
Are more kids interested in learning than when you were that age?
There are more boys now and I hope that continues to expand. I would encourage any young boys thinking about taking up ballet to do it; ballet is amazing and is one of the best forms of art we present.