Archetypes: Gen Horiuchi
A conversation with Gen Horiuchi, award-winning dancer, teacher, choreographer and artistic director of the Saint Louis Ballet Company and School. Since joining Saint Louis Ballet in 2000, Horiuchi has created more than 20 original works for the company and has spearheaded the growth of the Chesterfield-based school to 350 students and 15 faculty members. Raised in Tokyo by parents who were also professional ballet dancers, he won the prestigious Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition in 1980 and received a scholarship to study at the School of American Ballet. Soon after, he was invited by the renowned George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet, where he became a principal dancer and remained for 15 years. He has danced on Broadway and in London’s WestEndand choreographedtheopeningceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan. In 2004, he was honored with the Seventh Cultural Bridge Award beside Harold Prince, director of “Phantom of the Opera.” Since 2010, Horiuchi has been directing “Gen Horiuchi’s Ballet USA” each summer in Osaka, Japan, featuringhisownchoreographyandspecial guests who dance alongside him for sold-out audiences.
What is your current frame of mind?
I’m in creative mode for what I can do with this season’s “Nutcracker” performance (Dec. 18-23, touhill.org).
When and where are you happiest?
At home after work with my wife, Tanya, my 5-month-old daughter, Scarlett, and dog, Caesar.
What is your favorite smell?
Walking into the kitchen when someone is cooking.
What is one word that describes you?
Consistent. With ballet, it’s something you have to practice every day. There’s not a day that goes by that I do not work out or take someone’s class.
What did you eat for breakfast today?
A boiled egg and toast.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Thank you.” I’m so grateful to all of the dancers who work hard for me every day, the St. Louisans who donate money to Saint Louis Ballet and the people who come to our shows.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I am polite and elegant.
What trait do you most admire in others?
Respect for others is what I respect most. It is part of my Japanese culture.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Sometimes I wish I were more direct.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The Saint Louis Ballet School that I built from scratch.
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your most treasured possession?
My daughter. I am 50 years old and just having my first child, so I am especially grateful.
On what occasion do you lie?
When I don’t like something, but still feel the need to be polite.
Who are your favorite writers?
Which artists do you admire most?
The ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.
What is your favorite hobby?
Walking my dog.
Where would you most like to live?
I still miss New York. If I had the right opportunity to go back, I would.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Firefighters: The sacrifice they make to save lives is admirable.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
George Balanchine. I was one of the last dancers selected under him for the New York City Ballet. At the time, I was only 17. I would have so many questions for him now.
What is something interesting that you just learned?
How to take care of an infant.
What are you most looking forward to?
Tomorrow. Something new happens every day.
What is one thing you wish would happen?
Everything happens for a reason. I would not assume to will something to happen.
What is something you still want to learn?
I’d like to speak more languages.
What is one thing you want to do before you die?
Have a nice dinner all together with everyone I am closest to.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be?
Photo by Wesley Law
Photo credit: Wesley Law