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Japanese dancer who built bridges with China dies

By WANG XU | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-24 09:05

Mikiko Matsuyama, a Japanese ballet dancer and co-founder of Japan's Matsuyama Ballet troupe, died aged 98 on Saturday.

According to Matsuyama Ballet, the artistic director of the troupe died of acute heart failure in Tokyo about 3:40 am.

Born in Kagoshima prefecture in 1923, Matsuyama had devoted her life to ballet and made a great contribution in introducing Chinese culture to Japan.

In 1948 Matsuyama and her husband, Masao Shimizu, founded Matsuyama Ballet, which went on to become a leading ballet troupe in Japan and gain a worldwide reputation. The troupe built up a following in the United States, Europe and China.

The troupe has an extensive repertoire that runs the gamut from Western standards such as Swan Lake, Raymonda and Coppelia to Balanchine staples Serenade and Allegro Brillante and Japanese and Chinese material in the form of The Japanese Drum, Five Girls of Okinawa and The White-Haired Girl.

In 1955 the latter work was adapted from a Chinese folk story centered on the tragic life of a rural Chinese girl named Xi'er during the 1940s. The White-Haired Girl was warmly received by Japanese when it was staged in Tokyo.

In 1958, before China and Japan normalized their diplomatic relationship, the dance performance made its Beijing debut, and Matsuyama and Shimizu met Chinese leaders including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.

With Matsuyama Ballet having become the first foreign troupe to adapt a story from Chinese folklore into a ballet, the Tokyo-based troupe has been regarded as an outstanding participant in Sino-Japanese cultural exchanges and a witness and promoter of the Sino-Japanese friendship.

Last year, the Matsuyama Ballet released a video featuring the Chinese national anthem in which the troupe showed support for China amid the COVID-19 outbreak. It had more than 200 million views online and attracted 10,000 posts on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

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