"The main advice I would give is to keep working hard and have confidence in your goals."
The Academy of Northern Ballet’s Professional Graduate programme is a one-year traineeship that bridges the gap between full-time training and a performance career. Students may have the chance to perform alongside the Company in productions such as The Nutcracker, The Great Gatsby, The Little Mermaid and many more. This experience provides students with an insight into working within a professional ballet Company.
We spoke to Itsuki Amemiya, one of our recent Graduates who is now an Apprentice with the Company. Originally from Yamanashi, Japan, Itsuki trained at the Central School of Ballet. He performed in English National Ballet’s Cinderella before joining Northern Ballet in 2023.
After training in the Academy of Northern Ballet’s Graduate Programme, you are now an Apprentice. How does it feel to be working with the Company?
I am really grateful to be able to become part of the Company. Taking ballet class with the Company dancers is something that really inspires me.
What did you enjoy most about the Graduate programme?
The Graduate programme was a great opportunity for me. I performed in many different productions during my training. I played four roles in The Nutcracker - The Young Boy, Mouse friends, Infantry in Act I and the Russian dance in Act II. During the autumn season I performed in over 30 shows with the Company and from this experience I learnt how to match the timing of every movement and build relationships with the dancers on stage. I also think this allowed me to develop my skills dancing in a group.
In the spring season I had the chance to perform in David Nixon's The Great Gatsby, dancing the role of the Butler. This was more of a character role and so it was very interesting to explore how to embody a character through my acting skills.
When we took Gatsby to London I played a completely different style of role - I was one of the Gangsters. At this time I was also very busy rehearsing for English National Ballet's Cinderella - so there was quite a lot to learn! I had to learn the choreography by myself and could only join rehearsals three times a week.
Working with the Company in the Graduate programme also gave me the chance to dance in one of the children's ballets, Ugly Duckling at the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House.
Can you tell us what a day in the life of an Apprentice at Northern Ballet is like?
I go to the gym at 9am, before ballet class which typically starts at 10am each day. There are usually two rehearsals with a 15-minute break between 11:30 and 2:30. After this we have a one-hour break for lunch and two more rehearsals until 18:30. They are quite long and hard days, but I felt the same challenge with the Graduate programme. This is because the training from Yoko and Pippa was quite intense!
What production are you most looking forward to performing this season?
I will be involved in David Nixon CBE’s Beauty & the Beast and The Nutcracker this season. I am especially looking forward to performing in Beauty & the Beast and playing one of the Goblins – it is such a fun role.
What advice would you give to a young dancer or student who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer?
The main advice I would give is to keep working hard and have confidence in your goals. I didn’t expect to be with the Company until I received the contract on the last day of the Graduate programme – it was a wonderful surprise.
You can catch Itsuki in our productions of Beauty & the Beast and The Nutcracker.
Photos Emily Nuttall and George Liang