Visit to Japanese ballet troupe rekindles old ties

By Chong Zi and Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-09 07:19

TOKYO - Old friendship was renewed on President Hu Jintao's last day in Tokyo. He visited a family-run Japanese ballet troupe that has long served as a friendly bridge between China and Japan.

China's President Hu Jintao (top second right) and his wife Liu Yongqing (top right) pose with prima ballerina Yoko Morishita (top center) as they visit the Matsuyama Ballet company in Tokyo May 8, 2008. [Agencies]

At the Matsuyama Ballet of Tokyo, Hu praised its dedication to Sino-Japanese cultural exchange and friendship.

Ballet can be a family affair in Japan. The Matsuyama Ballet was founded in 1948 by the ballerina Mikiko Matsuyama. Her husband, Masao Shimizu, was director, and she artistic director.

Today their son Tetsutaro Shimizu is director and chief choreographer, while his wife Yoko Morishita is the company's prima ballerina.

As an envoy of Sino-Japanese friendship, the senior Shimizu has visited China more than 100 times.

"You took the lead in people-to-people contacts between the two countries. You are an important figure in our cultural exchanges," Hu told Shimizu.

Hu hopes the ballet company will continue make more contributions to friendship between the two countries in the future.

Friendship is deeply rooted in the heart of a lot of elderly Japanese people. The Shimizu family is a case in point.

Masao Shimizu has made significant contributions to the cause of Sino-Japanese friendship in the past several decades. He is hailed as an old and good friend of the Chinese people. His wife Mikiko is dedicated to the bilateral cultural exchange, especially in the field of ballet.

Their daughter-in-law Yoko was Japan's first internationally acclaimed ballerina. In 1974, she won one of ballet's greatest international honors: a gold medal at the ballet competition in Varna, Bulgaria.

Yoko played a leading role in a short dance programme called Ode to the Yellow River for the visiting Chinese president yesterday.

As sickly child, Yoko was sent by her parents to ballet class at age 3 to gain strength. She was the star pupil of the school by the time she was 7. That same year she saw a performance of Swan Lake that was to change her notion of ballet.

The Shimizu family's ballet company has toured internationally, including 12 tours to China.

In 1955, Mikiko and her husband choreographed The White-Haired Girl based on a well-known Chinese dance. Their ballet troupe performed the work in China in 1958.

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