Rena Narumi is a freelance contemporary dancer from Tokyo, Japan. Inspired by dance from the tender age of two, Rena starting taking classes as soon as she could and never stopped. Although determined to be a ballerina, her fascination with neoclassical and contemporary work inspired her to take a different path. By trusting her instinct, Rena has created a brilliant career for herself, working with some of the most notable choreographers and companies across the globe.
AinslieWear spoke with Rena recently to learn more about her training, pinch-me moments and what it’s like to live and work abroad.
AW: Tell us a little about your dance story – how old were you when you started dance and why did you start?
RN: My mother always tells me the story of how I started dance. When I was 2 years old, I was watching “Swan Lake” by a Russian ballet company on TV. I watched the whole ballet without moving. After the show, I started to imitate the dancing I saw. So my mother took me to the ballet studio but I was too young to start the class – I had to wait until I was 3 years old to start ballet.
Where did you dance in your early days?
When I was 15 years old, I started professional dance education with a classical ballet school in France. At age 18, I moved to Vancouver for my contemporary dance education with Arts Umbrella under the direction of Artemis Gordon and Lynn Shepard.
When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?
I always wanted to be a dancer and dreamed to be a ballerina ever since I started dancing. When I was 14 years old, I made a commitment to myself and my family to become a professional dancer no matter what. With the decision made, I went off to my ballet school in France.
What drew you to contemporary dance?
When I look back on what I liked as a kid, what I enjoyed watching the most were neoclassical ballet pieces (like George Balanchine, Roland Petit, John Neumeier, Kenneth MacMillan etc.) and contemporary dance (like Mats Ek, Willam Forsythe, Jiri Kylian etc). I was dancing classical ballet and wishing to be a prima ballerina but my instinct and body knew that I would be more interested in contemporary work.
Do you have any tips for dancers seeking a career in contemporary dance?
Every kind of dancer can relate to contemporary dance, so be open all styles of dance and movement. You to get to know your body and develop important skills such as coordination. Be curious and honest with yourself and your body, and keep finding connections between the technique and yourself to be able to express who you are as a dancer and artist. Don’t be afraid to fail and make a mistake! We can learn so much from these experiences.
What has been your experience working abroad?
It has been amazing experience and a privilege to be able to live in many places and countries throughout my career. These experiences have opened my eyes and I appreciate what I have and what I can do.
Do you have any tips for those wanting to dance overseas?
You have to be open to anything and get ready to take it all in. A lot of the places I have lived are very different culturally from Japan and I often couldn’t speak the local language. So it is difficult in the beginning but you will get used to it. Find your way to live with what is around you. I’ve learned to respect people for how they live and learn. It is a great life learning experience to be away from your home. You have to be strong mentally – you learn this very quickly once you are out there!
Do you have a favorite country you like to perform/dance/work in?
So far I have had great experiences in every country I have lived and worked! But If I have to choose a favorite then I would say Sweden and Netherlands – and of course Canada! I love travelling so it is a privilege to be able to perform and dance in many countries. Every audience has always given me a great energy! I am looking forward to visiting new countries again soon.
What is your favourite part of working on a new piece – the choreographic stage, rehearsal, or performance?
I do like and enjoy every stage of the process from choreography to performance! Working in the studio making the piece from scratch. Researching movement and feelings and stories to work on. I always feel privileged to be part of the creation where the magical moments happen. I get to be in it and use my body to make things possible, based on what the choreographer wants to derive with the work. And finally presenting it on stage performing is such a special feeling and an amazing experience. Each and every performance gives you a different journey and you grow with the piece. I get to know more about myself and have a deeper understanding of the work. Discovering yourself in the performance is one of the best moments!
You’ve worked with so many incredible choreographers and dance artists in your career – do you have a career highlight or pinch-me moment?
I have few highlights! My first career highlight was having the opportunity to join Kidd Pivot (under the direction of Crystal Pite) as an apprentice. I learned all the parts from the piece Dark Matters and Lost Action. I was also part of the creation of The You Show and performed with all the amazing artists!
Later, I danced the main role of Juliet from Julia and Romeo choreographed by Mats Ek. I performed this work at the Paris Opera Garnier. Many of my biggest dreams came true all at once!
A big career moment was joining the company Netherland Dans Theater (NDT). A current career highlight is that after many years and experiences, I have joined Kidd Pivot again and get to work with Crystal and her amazing artistic team!
What inspires you?
I get inspiration from everything around me. From family, friends, music, movie, books, food, drinks, a view of the nature, city, art, of course watching dance and theater arts. However, lately I get the most inspiration from the kids and the young dancers that I get to teach and share my knowledge with. They always give me lots of energy. They surprise me and it is fun to see them grow.
What are you currently working on and where can we watch you perform?
I joined Kidd Pivot in September and we are working on the new creation Revisor.
Catch the world premiere of Revisor with Rena & Kidd Pivot at Dance House Vancouver (World Premiere): February 20th-23rd 2019. More information on tour dates – https://kiddpivot.org
Watch Rena in Action
Follow Rena Online
Thank you to Kidd Pivot, Royal Swedish Ballet, NDT,
& Rena for sharing her story and inspiring us with her work!