Meet Ariel Daley the Japanese American dancer who recently competed in the 2020 Prix de Lausanne! Read our interview to find out about another unique, non-dance related competition she participated in and won fifth place... you might be surprised! Ariel trains and is currently quarantined in Kobe, Japan, where she has lived since she was eight years old.
Name: Ariel Daley
Where do you currently live/train? Kobe, Japan; Seiko Kuramoto Ballet School
What kind of pointe shoes do you wear? Grishko 2007
Favorite dance-wear brands: Yumiko, Chacott, WearMoi
Favorite role performed: Aurora, Sleeping Beauty
Dream role: Odette, Swan Lake
Ariel Daley © Rodrigo Buas
How and when did you begin dancing?
I began dancing at the age of three when my mom put me in ballet classes to improve my posture. I absolutely hated it at first; I just did not enjoy the classes. When I was around five, my family and I went to go see a professional performance of Swan Lake. I remember seeing the company dancers dancing en pointe, and that just amazed me. From that moment, I've loved ballet.
What has your dance journey been like, so far? As I mentioned earlier, I started dancing at the age of three in Hong Kong. At the age of seven, my family moved to the Cayman Islands, where I trained for several months before coming to Japan in 2012; I've been training here ever since. I started pointe when I was eight years old, and I participated in my first competition. I didn't make the first round! This really motivated me to work harder and take my ballet a bit more seriously. Over the years, I started training more seriously and participating in more competitions.
In 2016, my dad was working between Japan and New York, so I was lucky enough to have the chance to audition for ABT's Summer Intensive. At the age of eleven, I flew to New York all by myself. My dad picked me up, and I went to the audition. I remember feeling so overwhelmed because I did not know anyone there, but I was lucky enough to be accepted. I participated in their New York Summer Intensive that summer, where I met so many dancer from all across the U.S. and other countries. That experience really inspired me to take my ballet to the next level. I have been returning to their New York Summer Intensive every year since then, and I will be participating this year, although it will be online instead of in the ABT studios.
Another highlight of my ballet journey would definitely be the Prix de Lausanne 2020. It has always been a dream of mine to participate, and it was a true dream come true to be there. All the amazing dancers and teachers were inspiring, and there are no words to express how amazing my experience was. I still think about it every day!
I know you recently participated in the 2020 Prix de Lausanne! Congrats! Do you have any pre-performance rituals or routines?
I always get nervous before every performance. So, to deal with it, I try to put myself fully into the role that I will be dancing. For example, if I were to dance the wedding scene of Sleeping Beauty, I would convince myself that I'm getting married, that my wedding is about to happen, and that I'm at the happiest point of my life. This doesn't only help me with my nervousness before dancing, but it also really helps me to fully get into the role and express myself when dancing.
Another ritual I learned when I first came to Japan when I was eight, was tracing Kanji characters onto my hand and eating them. I've been doing this ever since I came to Japan before every performance, and it really seems to help me calm my nerves!
Ariel Daley at Prix de Lausanne © Gregory Batardon
What is something interesting that people might not know about you?
When I was around ten years old, Rainbow Loom was this huge thing. As you might know, Rainbow Loom is a craft using colored rubber-bands, and I used to be OBSESSED with it! I entered a nationwide competition for Rainbow Loom in Japan, and I actually won the fifth prize, making a ballerina doll, which I still have to do this day. It's actually very detailed; it has a bun, a tiara, and pointe shoes, which are Grishko 2007's, of course!
What’s next for Ariel? What are your short term and long term plans/goals?
Well, I was lucky enough to receive several scholarship offers at Prix de Lausanne. I am currently in the process of finalizing where I will be next fall, so unfortunately I cannot tell you yet! But, I will be posting on Instagram, so if you want to find out, please follow me @ariel_ballet! As for my long term goals, I want to be dancing in a company as a professional ballet dancer.
Now, a little quarantine Q&A!
How are you staying active, both mentally and physically, during quarantine?
To stay active during quarantine, I have been trying to do at least one ballet class every morning, whether it's on YouTube or Instagram. I've also been trying out several different work outs on YouTube, going on walks, and doing some jump rope just to make sure that my body is still active.
Mentally, I've been spending a lot of time with my family which is really nice because we usually aren't in the house all together at the same time since we're all busy with our own things. It's been very nice to have some family time together.
What’s been the most challenging part of self isolation for you?
The hardest part of isolation has definitely been not being able to be in the studios. I really miss dancing in the big studios, especially since I live in an apartment building. It's hard to do the jumps, and the small space has been really hard to adjust to. Another thing I find hard is not socializing. I really miss my friends and hanging out with them, and I cannot wait to hang out with them once quarantine is finished!
Ariel Daley at Prix de Lausanne © Gregory Batardon
Have you taken up any new hobbies or interests during your time at home?
Some new hobbies I've taken up during quarantine are cooking and baking! I've been baking cakes, cookies, and I've been cooking several different meals for the family. One issue I've had is that I've been following recipes from the U.S., so it's been hard to find the right ingredients, here, in Japan. Sometimes, I have to substitute Japanese ingredients, which leads to interesting results sometimes!