Japanese teen to dance lead role in Baba Yaga at Shea’s

Oct 24, 2013

A teenager from Japan is playing the lead role in this Saturday's performance of Neglia Ballet's Baba Yaga at Shea's.  WBFO'S Eileen Buckley talked to the 15-year-old ballerina about her role in this Halloween ballet.

Yuha Tomita, playing the lead role of Misha in Baba Yaga rehearses at Neglia's studio.
Credit Photo by M & M Photography on the Neglia Facebook Page

Yuha Tomita is dancing the part of Misha in this Russian folk tale. Artistic director Serigo Neglia was working with Tomita at a recent rehearsal.

Tomita is from Buffalo's sister city Kanazawa, Japan.

Yuha Tomita rehearses for role of Misha.
Credit Photo by M & M Photography on the Neglia Facebook Page

"Ballet is not really popular in Japan. So like, but in America, many people like dance," said Tomita.

Tomita first danced in Buffalo with Neglia during the summer of 2010 when she was only 12. At the time she attended an intensive dance  training course.  That's when Tomita deiced to study full time at Neglia.  

Tomita is in her second year of high school at Buffalo Seminary and is part of the Neglia Conservatory.

WBFO News asked the teenage dancer what she likes about ballet.

"I like everything -- like music -- dancing with music  and I like acting and also everything," said Tomita.

Tomita admits it takes a lot of work to train as a ballet dancer and keep up her school work.

"It's so hard actually -- like I have to study. I have to do homework everyday after ballet," Tomita said.

Tomita heads to the ballet studio right after school, spending about three hours each week-day taking classes and attending rehearsals. 

Since 1983, Neglia has had a long-standing relationship with Japan as a performer and bringing dancers like Tomita to Buffalo.

"And I use to perform there all the time and teach all the tine," said Neglia. "So I always had this idea, because they give me so much -- Japan -- so thought -- I have to give some back.  So I just thought why can't they just come and study here." 

Neglia, who is known for his expressive style, works to instill that in his dancers. It is much different from training Tomita receives in Japan.

"The Japanese -- their perfection -- or Bolshoi training -- which is fantastic, but they're little different. For me they are harsh," said Neglia.  "My style is just so much movement in my body So I always teach my way of the discipline of the body. and it just works like a charm for many dancers."

Tomita has embraced Neglia's style of training. It was the first time she learned to dance with such expression. 

"I've learned expression and it's very comfortable to dance," said Tomita. "It's very hard."

"With Yuha its just incredible. The dynamics too her body started changing. It's not all the time the same square," said Neglia.  "She's doing great and she's changed in a year and half . It's incredible."

Tomita aspires to be a professional dancer and for now--she says she doesn't miss home because she loves ballet.

In the role of Misha, Tomita plays a brave little girl who defeats the evil antics of Baba Yaga, a witch, played by Neglia.

Sergio Neglia prepares his face as the witch in Baba Yaga.
Credit Photo on the Neglia Ballet Facebook page

"But this is one of the hardest roles I ever done because it requires so much from your body," said Neglia. "This is all crooked...it's very folk style...It's hard on your body, so it's a challenge.         

About 3,000 Buffalo Public School children will have a chance to watch Baga Yaga before it is performed Saturday evening at Shea's. 

This show is a perfect Halloween treat -- with eerie sets and young dancers appearing as mushrooms and skeletons and plenty of stage effects -- including a house with a large cauldron pot and a home with chicken feet.