Written By | Bianca Theodore
She moves daintily, a vision of graceful strength as she pirouettes across the stage.
Photo By/Charle McCullers
Saho Kumagai is a consummate ballerina, a performance artist who paints with a different stroke each show. The Atlanta Ballet dancer may only be on her third season with the company, but Saho Kumagai is a veteran of the art.
“There wasn’t an exact, single point when I knew that I wanted to a professional ballet dancer,” said Kumagai. “I just knew that I always wanted to dance.”
Born in Japan, Kumagai laced up her first pair of pointe shoes at just nine years old. She’d seen a ballerina competition show on TV, and was instantly enchanted by the fairy-like dancers prancing across the screen. After that, she signed up for a local ballet class, and never looked back.
One class a week turned into practices five or six times a week, and before she knew it Kumagai had fallen head over pointe in love with ballet.
When her father’s job moved the family overseas to America, Kumagai was presented with the perfect opportunity to further her career. Dancing had long ceased to be just a hobby to the nine-year-old; she had a passion, and a dream. And that was only going to come true on the American stage.
Once she was in the States, Kumagai began to study at the Boston Ballet School on scholarship. Soon after that, she furthered her studies at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School Professional Division under the tutelage of artistic director Peter Boal. There, she performed corps roles in Kent Stowell’s Nutcracker and George Balanchine’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
But in 2014, Kumagai found herself under the bright lights as a soloist in Jean-Pierre
Bonnefoux’s Nutcracker. Later that year, she was ranked among the Top 20 finalists in
Switzerland’s renowned Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition.
Fast forward four years later, and the former apprentice is now a seasoned dancer for the Atlanta Ballet. With lead roles like The Nutcracker’s Marya under her belt, she is no stranger to bright lights and billboards like she once was.
“On stage, my goal is to make an impression on an audience, give them something to talk about later. Even if it’s just a feeling, a memory, or a picture that stays with them, “said the ballerina. “I just want to make them feel something magical.”
As she casts yet another spell on audience after audience, that she certainly does.