Endowment

The Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation Principal Dancer

Birthplace

Aichi, Japan

Dance Training

Shanghai Dance School
Canada's National Ballet School

Year Joined

2014

Promotions

Principal - 2014
First Soloist - July 2014-Nov 2014

Previous Companies

American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company - Sep. 2001–Nov. 2001
American Ballet Theatre - 2002-2014

Favorite Roles

I spend many hours trying to find my "own" in each role I dance. Whatever I'm dancing at that time does become my "favorite role". But I do love all the story ballets - dramatic the better. Cio-Cio San in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly, Giselle in Stanton Welch’s Giselle, Hanna in Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow and Manon in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon are definitely some of the roles that I look forward to dance again.

Favorite Ballets

Giselle, Manon and Madame Butterfly are my favorite ballets to dance.
When I first danced Giselle with American Ballet Theatre, I got to spend many hours working with my beloved coach and the legend, Irina Kolpakova. Every time I dance the ballet, I always remember the wonderful time trying to find my "Giselle" with her. I feel that I have grown so much as a ballerina dancing this ballet. It was also very special to have Stanton Welch create his new "Giselle" on me. He has given me beautiful memories of finding my own Giselle again during the process. My favorite part of his Giselle is the mad scene. The mad scene in his Giselle is twice as long. It really lets me go through the full roller coaster of emotion with love and pain...and that leads to her death.

A Defining Moment

Working with Irina Kolpakova as my coach really changed and defined who I am as a ballerina. I am very grateful for all the knowledge and love she has shared with me.

Bio

Born in Aichi, Japan, Yuriko Kajiya began her training at the age of eight. At ten, she moved to China and became one of the first foreign students to study with and graduate from the Shanghai Ballet School on scholarship. In January 2000, she won the renowned Prix de Lausanne Scholarship, leading to her study at the National Ballet of Canada School in Toronto.

Kajiya joined American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company in September 2001 and was promoted to the main Company as an apprentice in 2002. She performed with ABT for fifteen years, seven of those as a Soloist. In 2014, she joined Houston Ballet as a First Soloist and was quickly promoted to Principal in November 2014 following her performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker.

She has danced leading roles from many classical full-length ballets and has worked with some of the world’s greatest choreographers, coaches, teachers and dancers including Stanton Welch AM, Ben Stevenson OBE, George Balanchine, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Jerome Robbins, Mark Morris, Jorma Elo, John Cranko, Ronald Hynd, Jiří Kylián, Antony Tudor, Michel Fokine, Twyla Tharp, Sir Frederick Ashton, Kevin McKenzie, Alexei Ratmansky, James Kudelka and Martha Graham.

Kajiya has danced lead roles in many of Stanton Welch’s ballets, including Giselle in Giselle, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Nikiya, Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly, Comtesse de Noailles in Marie, Artemis in Sylvia, and Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara and Arabian in The Nutcracker. She has also danced lead roles in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty and Coppélia, Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, John Cranko’s The Taming of The Shrew andSir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon. Her repertoire also includes Dumbarton, Baker's Dozen, Ballo della Regina, Birthday Offering, Brief Fling, Chamber Symphony, Dark Elegies, Désir, Diversion of Angels, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, In the Upper Room, The Leaves Are Fading, Overgrown Path, Petite Mort, Rabbit and Rogue, Seven Sonatas, Sinfonietta, Symphony in C and Theme and Variations. 

Outside of performances, Kajiya has led and participated in several international benefit projects. She performed as part of the United Way’s “Hearts for Houston” in New York City to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. In 2020, she produced Hearts for Artists, an online benefit project to support the performing arts in Japan. She also joined 32 dancers from leading ballet companies around the world in the “Swans for Relief” project to raise money for their companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, she received an Art Award from Japan's Agency of Cultural Affairs for her guest performance in Le Corsaire and her work with Hearts for Artists.

She has received many accolades for her performances and leadership work, including the Artistic Ambassador Award of Japan in 2012, Time Magazine’s “One of the next generation leaders” in 2015 and Pointe Magazine’s “One of the best performances for Giselle” in 2019.

Yuriko Kajiya is a lovely dancer with a combination of true lyricism and classical technique

Robert Gottlieb

Observer

Photos

Charles-Louis Yoshiyama

Karina González