Eye on the Pupil: Kazuri Masuda

Despite the endless hours of rehearsal, daily disciplined classes and painful blisters from dancing in pointe shoes, freshman Kazuri Masuda’s passion for classical ballet dancing never tires.
Kazuri’s dancing career began at the age of five in Japan, when her parents enrolled her in dance classes “just for fun.” Since then, Kazuri has focused on classical ballet, although she has experimented with other styles, such as hip-hop and jazz.
“I love ballet because I love classical music and being able to go on pointe and wear a tutu,” she said. “Pointe is painful and I get a lot of blisters and bruised toe nails, but it’s nice because you get a different feeling than dancing in regular ballet shoes.”
Kazuri moved here from Tokyo, Japan four years ago after her dad got a job in Sunnyvale.
The transition from Tokyo to Los Altos was very difficult for Kazuri, especially on the dance level.
“It was very hard for me to get used to life here,” she said. “I missed my friends and my [dance] teachers and everything about Japan. Also, it was hard for my mom and I to find a good dance school and a good dance teacher since we both weren’t able to speak English very well.”
Eventually Kazuri found Western Ballet in Mountain View, where she enrolled for dance classes.
One of Kazuri’s favorite things to do in ballet class is partnering.
“It’s so nice dancing with someone,” Kazuri said. “But it is the most difficult thing because in order to make the dance look graceful, you need perfect timing and a sense of trust.”
Just this past December, Kazuri had to do a lot of partnering, as she was the Sugar Plum Fairy in Western Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” This was not Kazuri’s first performance in “The Nutcracker”—she has performed it five different times, dancing nearly every role in the show. However, this was her first performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy, one of the most prestigious roles in the ballet.
“Being the Sugar Plum Fairy meant a lot to me,” Kazuri said. “It was always my dream.”
But Kazuri’s dream did not come easily. She has dance class for 2 1/2 hours, Monday through Saturday. During Nutcracker season, Kazuri had rehearsals for four or five hours every Saturday in addition to her regular weekly classes.
“I never knew how hard and tiring being the Sugar Plum Fairy would be,” Kazuri said. “I get really nervous. … My legs were shaking on the first day of performing [as the Sugar Plum Fairy], but even though I was nervous, I was still able to dance well.”
With all this rigorous training come a few consequences, and Kazuri gets injured quite often. Kazuri was out for three months right before rehearsals for the Nutcracker began because she had severely twisted her ankle doing a pirouette on pointe.
“[The injury] really affected me,” Kazuri said. “I couldn’t go on pointe and if I tried I looked like a beginner.”
Kazuri was also unable to jump, and although her ankle is healed now, she still feels pain every once in a while and has to do daily exercises prescribed by her physical therapist.
Besides performing in “The Nutcracker,” Kazuri has also played roles in performances of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Don Quixote.” Kazuri wants to continue dancing after high school and hopes to pursue dance professionally in the future.
“When I am up on stage [dancing] I forget about everything,” Kazuri said. “I just dance and have fun.”