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20 questions with Miyouki Jego

Dance teacher Miyouki Jego. -
Dance teacher Miyouki Jego.
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Miyouki Jego on nutrition and whether she hopes her daughter will dance

by Matthew Hoekstra

Staff Reporter

At age 14 Miyouki Jego moved away from home—leaving her family behind—to pursue her love of ballet.

It was a big leap to make for a teenager with a passion for pirouettes, but Jego stuck with it and launched into an early dance career. In 2009 she began teaching at Richmond Arts Centre, and today leads the three-year-old Richmond Youth Dance Company.

Born in Windsor, Ont. Jego moved to Alberta to study at the Edmonton School of Ballet. She trained in the professional program studying musical theatre, jazz, modern, tap, character dance and choreography, with a main focus on ballet.

She performed in various ballets—including The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Cinderella and Don Quixote—before teaching became a priority.

In 1999, Jego was invited to lead and develop the ballet program at a competitive dance school in Alberta. She continued in that role until pursuing her other passion—nutrition—and earned a degree in nutritional science from University of Alberta.

In her career she has taught dancers ranging in age from two to 85. Among them are those enrolled at Richmond Youth Dance Company. The company, which began in 2010, has blossomed into a well-rounded program in which dancers are exposed to a variety of styles while focusing on classical ballet.

Jego also teaches beginner and intermediate adult ballet classes at Richmond Arts Centre. Away from dance, a 16-month-old daughter keeps her busy.

1. Favourite ballet? “Coppelia.”

2. What do you love most about teaching? “I love watching the students get really proud of themselves when they accomplish their goal. There is a beautiful sense of pride, which tends to shape beautiful confident dancers.”

3. What ignited your passion for dance? “My mother took me to my first ballet and that was it. She had an idea that I would be a dancer because I would always walk on my toes.”

4. Most memorable performance? “I think I was 10 when I danced my first solo on pointe. I remember feeling so confident in my pretty little pink sparkly tutu. It was a great accomplishment at the time. “

5. Your most challenging dancing role? “Swanhilda in Coppelia. I practised with my mentor every chance I had before performing but I was never satisfied with the outcome. I had high expectations probably because it was my favourite ballet.”

6. Nutrition advice for dancers? “The best advice I can give is to get enough whole foods in the daily diet. It is too easy to pack pre-packaged meals for a day at rehearsals but it definitely catches up to you in a very negative way.”

7. A favourite snack? “Nuts and fresh fruit with a cup of tea.”

8. Breakfast of choice? “Eggs—done any way.”

9. Most important quality of a dancer? “The love and dedication they have for the art.”

10. Goal for Richmond Youth Dance Company? “To attain a professional quality of dance but to still maintain an inviting and nurturing environment for the students.”

11. Where in the world do dancers have the most opportunities? “Many of my colleagues and former classmates have danced professionally in Europe, U.S, and some are still dancing with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. It is a very competitive field.”

12. Thoughts on TV dance shows? “Oh boy—this is a loaded one. Well as popular as they are, and as entertaining as these shows are, there is far more to dance than what is shown. It is after all television.”

13. Worst injury you’ve suffered? “Tendonitis in my achilles tendon. It was the worst because every winter it came back and I had to suffer through hours of dance on that ankle. It was so painful and still to this day I cannot pointe my feet properly.”

14. Most proud of? “Being brave enough to move away from my family at the age of 14 to pursue my love of ballet and stick with it.”

15. Any regrets? “I regret not continuing to dance for myself a little longer before I began my career as a teacher. I think it is something that I will need to pick up again in the near future.“

16. What inspires you? “The passion I see in other artists inspires me, particularly ballet artists. Every time I see a ballet performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet I come back to Canada feeling very inspired.”

17. Where would you most like to travel? “France. I have family in Brittany and would like to take my daughter.”

18. Are you a night owl or early bird? “I am definitely a night owl. I feel most creative at night and I think most artists feel that way.”

19. Favourite meal both you and your daughter will eat? “Fish, rice, sautéed vegetables and salad.”

20. Do you hope your daughter takes to dancing? “I would, of course, be happy if it made her happy. Truthfully, I really hope that she doesn’t desire to be a dancer for a living. It is not an easy life and it will require a lot of sacrifice and dedication. If she does, however, become a dancer I would be overjoyed to watch her in her glory.”

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