An interview with NDT2’s Madoka Kariya


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Photo: Johan Persson

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 will shortly be beginning its UK tour, starting in Woking on Tuesday 12th April and visiting 10 other UK venues. We were joined by the beautiful Madoka Kariya, NDT2’s Japanese dancer and tour cover star, to talk NDT2 and how her dancing dream began.

Dance has been around me since I was really young because my parents dance and play music from Peru, and I used to watch my parents and their friends rehearsing and performing. I remember I used to dance and have fun in my living room with folklore music with my mother and the moment my father got home I would stop dancing because I was embarrassed of showing my dancing to my father! This is possibly my first memory of dance. But after a few years I remember I used to do small performances at my home to my family very often.

How did you get into dance?

I asked my mother if I could start ballet when I was 4. I even said ‘mum, my dream is to become a ballerina.’

I don’t remember exactly why but I think I saw some girls in ballet class in the same building I used to go swimming in or I saw a dance performance on TV… Anyway I asked so many times but my mother always thought it was a little girl’s dream and going to ballet school in Japan is so expensive. She made me wait to go to ballet school for a year to see how serious I was, and I just kept saying ‘I want to dance!’ So by the end she believed in me and let me go to to ballet school. She supported me throughout.

Was your journey into dance an easy one, or did you face challenges along the way? 

I started ballet in Japan in my home town Sendai. I always wanted to dance abroad, especially in Europe because I felt Europe had more of a dance scene and new things were always coming up. Also you could dance as a career!  So I was interested in studying dance abroad from quite young. I started to take part in a few competitions which give you opportunity to study ballet school elsewhere.  

Then when I was 16 I got the chance to participate in the Youth America Grand Prix New York City final where I won silver medal and scholarships. Then from 16 I studied at  Palucca Schule Dresden in Germany and graduated with a Bachelor of Art. It was a great 3 years to learn both classical and modern ballet, and all those dance theory classes as well! After graduation I danced for 2 years in Zurich’s junior ballet. 

Please tell us a little more about your early years training and professional dance training… NDT has always been a dream company in my mind. And after Zurich’s junior company I felt it was the time to try… I remember at the end of a long audition talking positively with NDT’s artistic director Paul Lightfoot and thinking I was dreaming… Fortunately it was not a dream! 

It hasn’t been easy so far, but challenges teach me a lot and make me stronger in order to work harder, and I think I like it! I also feel lucky to have met the people I have in the dance world. 

Please tell us about a day in the life of NDT2… We usually start the day at 9.30am with ballet class and have rehearsals until 5.30pm with an hour lunch break. We have different schedules depending on whether we have a show in the evening. 

What dance work/s are you looking forward to dancing in the UK, and why? I am looking forward to dancing Cacti by Alexander Ekman. It’s fun and great to dance with a big group at NDT2! Also Some Other Time by Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot. It was created during my first year programme in NDT2… Many memories!  I’m so glad I got the chance to dance it.

Cacti, Alexander Ekman. Photo: Johan Persson 2016

What excites you about performing in the UK? I’m looking forward to seeing so many UK cities and we have so many shows in this tour so I’m excited to experience and enjoy the differences in each of the shows!

What city in the UK are you looking forward to visiting and why? I have only been to London before so I’m looking forward to visiting other cities. I’ve heard a lot of nice things about Edinburgh from NDT dancers who’ve been there. The city is beautiful and there is good Indian restaurants etc… I am also excited to be back in London! It’s been a while since I did the Royal Ballet School’s Summer School.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not dancing? I like meeting friends in free time and making dinner together. I also like to photograph and draw occasionally. I enjoy visiting museums to see exhibitions and meeting and talking with artists from various fields. 

Madoka Kariya was born in Sendai, Japan in 1993 and joined Nederlands Dans Theater 2 in August 2014.