Support Japanese Tsunami Relief at “Dancing for Hope”

Guest writer: Nao Kusuzaki, soloist

The recent earthquake and tsunami destroyed Japan with incredible magnitude–the worst destruction since World War II.  It changed the lives of so many, and forced the entire country to deal with a new reality.  After I had made sure every one of my family and friends was accounted for, and could no longer watch the tragedy streaming online, the reality for me became, “How can I help?  What can I do to be proactive in helping my country recover?”  My individual donation didn’t feel like enough, but as performing artists we are able to bring people together, create hope and celebrate life on stage, and with that, a possibility to raise a lot more money than I could ever do on my own. 

This need for a benefit concert was in the minds of many.  Ever-flowing talk was present around Houston Ballet and online.  All we needed was a strong base.  My desire grew stronger, and one day, one message I saw on the e-mail thread caught my eye.  On instinct, I called this lady, Akemi, whom I had never met.  After exchanging ideas and realizing our purposes were in sync, we both agreed on an evening of dance performance as a fundraiser: a collaborative performance project between Houston Ballet (which has 5 Japanese dancers) and Ad Deum dance company (which has 1 Japanese dancer, Shizu, Akemi’s longtime friend).  A few days later, Akemi, now the project manager, had Zilkha Hall at The Hobby Center booked for April 21. That was only 3 weeks ago…we were on a mission to make this happen when we talked!   

When I approached Houston Ballet, the idea was immediately embraced, and so many reached out to offer their services.  The cast of dancers grew from 5 to over 20, and each department, including production, wardrobe, PR, subscriptions, and artistic offered their time generously.  Being a novice at coordinating an event like this, I needed as much advice as possible, and it would not have been possible without the support of the entire Houston Ballet organization.  This “project” evolved into a full evening of dance with the resources made available by Houston Ballet. And what a learning experience this has been!  As a dancer,  my responsibility is my own performance, and being connected with my fellow dancers.  Now as the coordinator, I was to oversee the entire situation.  It included learning stagehand language, agressive PR, where to strategically post flyers, to check e-mails by the minute, communicate/update/edit/double check…I have two days to go until show, and the list of to do’s are endless.  Fortunately, I find myself enjoying every second of it.  Positive, strong energy surrounds this event, which has been created out of compassion and selflessness. This process in itself has been empowering, and I can foresee the performance to exude just that.  The power of many is strong, and the evening, Dancing for Hope, will be a testament that action truly speaks louder than words.  I am grateful for everyone who reached out.  I trust that Dancing for Hope will help Japan regain its strength and optimism.

Dancing for Hope will take place Thursday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Zilkha Hall at The Hobby Center (800 Bagby in downtown Houston).  For more information about purchasing tickets, please visit the Japan-America Society of Houston website.

Nao Kusuzaki joined Houston Ballet in 2004 and was promoted to soloist in 2008.  She hails from Ehime, Japan and received her dance training at Boston Ballet School and Washington School of Ballet.  You can read more about Nao at her online bio.


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