Ballet is clearly an artistic endeavor, but it also requires great physical skill and puts great demands on the body. Many ballet dancers give up their dream to become a professional ballet dancer as it takes an average of eight to 10 years of training to become a professional ballet dancer, and it is almost impossible to spark a successful career among the fierce competition in the industry. Being a ballerina is certainly tough, but becoming a successful danseur, a male ballet dancer, is even tougher.
G.Khosbayar is a Mongolian professional danseur recognized for his talent at Japan’s oldest ballet companies, the Komaki Ballet Company. While leading a successful career, the 35-year-old also runs a private ballet school in Japan. The following is an interview with G.Khosbayar about his life and career.
You have been dancing at the prestigious Komaki Ballet Company for many years. You recently opened your own ballet school. Can you tell us about your school?
Immediately after arriving in Japan, I started working at the Asami Maki Ballet Company, and after a year, I entered the Komaki Ballet Company. Since then, I’ve been dancing for the Komaki Ballet Company and even started teaching at their ballet school. Moreover, it’s been a year since I founded Maiko Ballet Private School.
Currently, Maiko Ballet Private School has two branches, in Tokyo city and Iwate Prefecture, and has around 50 students. Our courses are divided into three classes – one for children aged between four and nine, for ages between nine and 14, and another for adults. Our objective is to train teenage ballet dancers. As my wife and I teach children, not only do our teaching skills constantly improve, but we also learn many new things. The name “Maiko” is written with the kanji “dancing child”. Our students have won prizes from various competitions.
Is it true that you were offered a job in the USA? Why did you choose Japan?
In the year I graduated from the Music and Dance College of Mongolia, I received a job offer to work at the Nevada Ballet Theater in the USA following a year-long study through scholarship. However, I couldn’t get the visa. Not to mention my father wanted me to work as a ballet dancer in Mongolia and improve my skills. In respect of his views, I got a job as an actor and ballet dancer at the State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet after graduating in 2003. While working, I studied arts and cultural management at the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture.
In 2008, I was invited to perform in a concert in Japan. After the concert, I was asked to work as an instructor and I decided to stay in Japan. Up to this day, I’ve been living and working at this island country, met my life partner, and became a father of two beautiful daughters. My wife is called Maiko Sugawa. We share the same profession. She’s also a ballet instructor.
Mongolians are critical of Mongolians born abroad for not knowing the Mongolian language or culture. Do you teach Mongolian to your daughters?
Of course, it’s wrong for Mongolians to not know their national language. I try to teach Mongolian culture as much as I can to my children. My oldest daughter can speak Mongolian. My wife is quite fluent too. She also cooks buuz, khuushuur and tsuivan well.
Despite the small population, talents of Mongolians in the classical arts have been globally recognized. Japan has many world famous ballet dancers. If you were to compare Mongolian and Japanese ballet dancers, which one is better?
The classical arts are highly developed in Japan. It’s hard to compare and say which is better. Mongolia has one school which trains professional ballet dancers. I hear that there are one or two more schools besides the Music and Dance College. Ballet dancers aren’t trained in large public institutes like the Music and Dance College of Mongolia in Japan, but there are more than 4,000 private ballet schools. On average, these schools produce only around 40 professional ballet dancers a year, meaning only the best become professionals.
From looking at ballet competition, mostly Japanese dancers have been winning in recent years. Almost every big theater in the world has Japanese ballet dancers. As for Mongolians, we have many advantages, such as natural talent, beautiful body structure, endurance, and creativity.
What disadvantages do Mongolians have? It is often said that Mongolians are poor at collaborations and aren’t good at socializing. Do you agree with this?
Yes, I guess we have that tendency. I suppose our over-confident attitude influences us.
Are you announced as a Mongolian ballet dancer every time you go on stage?
I’m called onto the stage as Khosbayar Gan-Uur. I’m introduced on concert pamphlets like this as well. In general, the classical arts are global arts. In that sense, artists’ birth place and names are emphasized, rather than their nationality. However, sumo is the national sport of Japan so they always mention sumo wrestlers’ nationality.
If you count all the agony and difficulty, the list will be never end. But if you genuinely fall in love with the art, all your troubles will become happiness, and you’ll just stop thinking it’s hard. I always feel proud to be a ballet dancer.
Earthquakes are frequent in Japan. Have you gotten used to earthquakes or do you still feel frightened?
At first, it was a little scary. Rather than being scared, I become cautious. Now, I’ve gotten used to the situation so I don’t worry much. You stop being anxious about it over time.
The Mongolian president encouraged Mongolians living abroad to return to their home country. Do you plan to return to Mongolia?
Probably all Mongolians living on foreign land wish to return home, and work and share what they’ve learned. I also have this desire and plan. In fact, I go back to Mongolia two or three times a year. For some reason, I yearn to return to Mongolia when Tsagaan Sar and Naadam Festival nears.
What do you observe or feel when you come to Mongolia? In your opinion, is Mongolia developing?
Though it’s lacking, it’s still my home. Every time I come to Mongolia, I feel happy and everything seems nice.
Most Mongolians living abroad say that Mongolia hasn’t made much progress and usually say negative things. But you’re praising Mongolia. Are you a positive person?
I try to look at everything from a positive side and see the good. Even the worst have some kind of good quality. I don’t like people who constantly find faults, criticize and say negative things. I was like that as a child. Mongolia is developing steadily. Of course, there will be some mistakes along with achievements. No country sails through a smooth path. There’s bound to be some difficulty. Our nation should prosper and flourish more, and young Mongolians must contribute with whatever they can do. I think that everything will be fine as long as we genuinely try and continue to do what we can. Mongolians say that men have “khiimori” (fortune and spirit). I don’t know whether other countries describe men with such a nice expression. Even our way of thinking is unique and prideful. The fire in Mongolians’ eyes will never die out.
You’re quite tall. It’s advantageous for male ballet dancers to be tall. Are there Japanese male ballet dancers as tall as you?
I’m 186 centimeters tall. Now that I think about it, there are hardly any ballet dancers as tall as me. But male ballet dancers don’t have to be tall in Japan. In countries like Russia, the USA and France, where the women are tall, it’s hard to dance as a couple if the male lead dancer is short. Body build and structure is very important in ballet.
Ballet is tough. Not everyone can achieve the life of a professional ballet dancer. Do you have any dancers in your family?
My mother was the one who pushed me to become a dancer. There weren’t any dancers in my family but we did have artists. My grandfather D.Dondov was an actor and a director. He became famous among Mongolians by playing the lead role in the Mongolian film “Son-In-Law”. He directed many documentary films too.
You are recognized as a professional ballet dancer after enduring and overcoming many trials and difficulties. Yet, it has an age limit. You can live as a ballet dancer on stage between the ages of 20 and 40.
Did you ever feel distressed by your work?
Many times. When you’re getting scolded by your instructor, feel exhausted, and your hands and feet ache, it feels very hard. This is something every ballet dancer experiences. If you count all the agony and difficulty, the list will be never end. But if you genuinely fall in love with the art, all your troubles will become happiness, and you’ll just stop thinking it’s hard. I always feel proud to be a ballet dancer.
Funny events and mistakes are common among artists. Have you made a mistake on stage? Do you have any funny episodes?
I made plenty of mistakes as a new artist right after graduation. Now, I have a lot of work experience. People attain experience through trials and error.