Tej: Ok so introduce yourself. Tell me a little about you and what you are currently doing.
Alexandra: Ok, so first, I am American and Japanese. My mom is Japanese and my dad is American. I was born in Japan and I grew up here until I was nine. I lived in America from when I was nine years old till I graduated high school. I came back to Tokyo for college. I graduated last year and starting April this year, I’m starting grad school for studying clinical psychology.
Tej: Ok so what brought you to Japan?
Alexandra: So the real story is, I wanted to go to a school in America. I didn’t really care, but I wanted to go to a really good school. I applied to American universities as well as Japanese Universities. Even with the financial aid that I got, it was still way cheaper to come to Japan. So I didn’t want to do student loans or anything. So I chose to come to Japan because it was cheaper and it was a fairly good school in Japan. Before that, when I lived in America, I would visit Japan every year for a month because my mom wanted me to experience middle school and high school in Japan so she put me in the school she went to. She still had the uniforms, so I would wear her uniforms and basically be like a Japanese student every year for a month.
Tej: How was that? Was it hard fitting in?
Alexandra: Well I lived in Japan until I was nine, so it was easier in the beginning, before I was Americanized. After I got used to acting more American, then it was harder to fit in during the summer in Japanese schools?
What qualities of being an American makes it difficult to fit in, in Japan?
At my high school in America, we were allowed to eat during class. Like if you’re hungry you can just munch on your food, but in Japan it’s really strict. You are only allowed to eat your bento during the lunch time. #bentotime Also you have to clean the classroom, but in America the janitors would clean the classroom. Also when you are a teenager, there are things that are cool or in trend to talk about and what’s in trend in America is different from in Japan. So I didn’t like how I couldn’t talk about the things that I enjoyed because my Japanese friends wouldn’t understand that. What they liked to talk about, I didn’t not much about.
Tej: Are you a K-Pop or a J-Pop fan?
Alexandra: Right now, neither. Although I really like this one girl from Black Pink. Her name is Risa. I think she’s Thai. She’s the best dancer probably.
Tej: How do you stay active in Japan, what do you do?
Alexandra: Because I don’t like to do weight lifting or cardio. I just dance. It’s what I’ve always liked doing. So I take ballet classes and salsa classes. I can go whenever and it’s there everyday. It’s calming for me because I’ve done it for such a long time and salsa is new for me. It’s not as calming, but it’s exciting. I’m learning something new. There’s going to be a performance in June. We are practicing for that right now. I feel like June is pretty close, so yeah it’s kinda scary. You should come!
Tej: How often do you take dance classes?
Alexandra: Ballet I try to take three classes a week, but sometimes I like to take one or two, but I try to do three because I’m paying for three. Salsa classes are just once a week. It’s a completely different organization.
Tej: Are you still trying to be a professional dancer?
Alexandra: No I’m not. I wanted to become a professional ballet dancer until I graduated high school and when I had to decide if I was going to go to a classical ballet training program or a university, I first wanted to go to the training programs because a lot of my friends were doing that from my high school, but my parents were like no, you can’t do that. You have to have a regular job and go to a regular university. At the time, I knew they were being smart, but dance is something you can do when you’re young, so I wanted to do that, but there’s also the thing about money. There’s that realistic aspect of what’s going to be my career and also if I really wanted to be a professional ballet dancer, I saw that there were people who were worse than I was who became professional ballet dancers, but there were also so many people that were better than us. So I thought in terms of ability it was possible, but then ballet is not only about ability and how good you are, it’s about how you look. You have to have the ballet body in order to be a professional ballet dancer. In ballet there is a principal dancer and the corps in the back. Unless you are really really really good, you are just going to be hired as a corps member. If you are hired as a principal dancer, there is more f a range for what you can look like, so you can just be yourself and be in the middle, but If you are a corps member you have to look the same as everyone else. The corps members don’t do much dancing. Most of the time they are just dancing in the back. So you don’t have to be good at ballet that much. You have to have the turnout and the basics, but that’s it.
Tej: Do you think if you pursued ballet when you were younger, you could be a principal dancer?
Alexandra: Maybe if I went to a more rigorous school since I was younger, but I went to a fairly high level school. I don’t know. That’s something I would never know, but I would have had to work really really really hard. That’s the thing, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s a very risky route to take to pursue professionally. Even though I wanted to pursue it in the past, looking back, living as a professional ballet dancer if you are not the world’s top ten percent, then you are probably going to be pretty poor and end up not making it.
Tej: Do many ballet dancers become teachers?
Alexandra: Yeah they do. I do teach too. I teach little kids. It’s not what I imagine what their every day life is like. It’s not as nadaro…Kira Kira as I imagined. It’s not as glamours as I imagined.
Tej: Do you regret not pursuing it?
Alexandra: In the beginning I did. When I first came to Japan, but not anymore. I think it was the right choice. I think my parents were smart *smiles* I also met a lot people who became professional dancers who quit and they came to my university after they pursued it for a couple of years and they said that when it became their profession it wasn’t fun anymore.
Tej: Where do you see yourself in the next five or ten years? What will you be doing? What do you want to do?
Alexandra: Well I have a few ideas in my head. One is I’m going to start my graduate school in April and the other is to concentrate on anorexia amongst ballet dancers and continue my research in that field. Maybe try to get a job at a ballet school as a clinical psychologist.
I don’t know much about that, can you explain how that can relate to working in a ballet school and not just being a dancer or a coach.
Tej: Why do you want to be a clinical psychologist at a ballet school?
Alexandra: In ballet there is a lot of anorexia nervosa pathology going on. Even though there is a lot of research done about it, especially in America, there is still a lot of people who are having the same problem. Big ballet schools and national ballet schools in Paris and London and also I think Houston Ballet, I think they started to hire a psychologist at the ballet school, so that they will be looking out for psycho pathology amongst students. They usually hire just one per school. It’s competitive, but I don’t think many psychologists want to do that because many don’t know much about ballet.
Tej: If you didn’t do that, what are you considering doing?
Alexandra: I’m also interested in stigma and racial minority. Like when people go from one culture to another. A lot of people have experience with this, but I guess I’m one of them. There is a field about stigma in psychology, so maybe I could join that wave right now and do research in that.
Tej: Do you see yourself working in Japan or the US or abroad?
Alexandra: That’s the thing, I’m the kind of person where I don’t care whether I live in Japan or America, but the only thing that I care about is I want to always have that choice to be able to choose, so if I want to live in America, I want to get a clinical psychologist degree in America someday, but I’m trying to get a degree in Japan first. For PHD, I want to go to a university in America, but that costs a lot of money, so I maybe I’ll have to work for a little bit in Japan before I do that.
Tej: So in Japan, who are your closest friends at the moment?
Alexandra: The first person who came up in my mind is the friend I was friends with since I was one year old. We went to the same preschool and elementary school. We were together till I moved to America. Then we became friends again. Well were contacting each other, but now I live in Tokyo and she lives in Tokyo too, so we are friends again.
Tej: You were telling me about how some friends moved abroad for work. Why was that?
Alexandra: So because I went to a university where a lot of students went to school abroad and they came back to Japan, that when they graduated, they would go back abroad to work or go to school. So they went away, so I’m a little lonely, but it’s ok because I have a couple of friends left here. So what I just thought about was my high school friends and how they were all minorities. Oregon is apparently the whitest state. Apparently there is a lot of white people, so my high school and middle school, I don’t know what the percentage was, but my friends were Black, Mexican, or Asian. I was thinking why I didn’t become friends wit super duper white people. I don’t know what to call them. When they are fairly rich, but…what do you say? Since I danced in ballet, so the ballet world is mainly white. Most of my ballet friends were white. That’s because it wasn’t my choice, but there were not many minorities besides me, but in high school there were minorities. They related to me more than white students. #SDWP
Tej: Do you think Japan is getting better at learning about diversity.
Alexandra: I only interact with people who have lived abroad, so they are already open minded.