Keeping up With: Ballet Dancer Risa Ishii


Junior Risa Ishii practicing her jumps during dance class. Photo by Rebecca Meyer.

Music and light footsteps can be heard on the first floor of the Performing Arts Center at Sacred Hearts Academy, as Junior Risa Ishii twirls to classical tunes of Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinski.

But whether to slow-paced rhythms or to fast-paced hits, Ishii is seen by many on stage. And is known to move with elegance, grace and a smile so contagious, one can’t help but dance along, too.

“When I first heard the music, I just started to dance and instantly had a passion for it,” Ishii said.

Ishii, originally from Nagoya, Japan, has been dancing ballet for 13 years. She discovered her love for dance when she was three years old.

“My mother wanted me to have really good posture because I’m a girl,” Ishii said.

Ishii’s mother played a big role in starting her daughter’s hobby of ballet. She enrolled her in their community’s local dance program.

Since moving from Japan, Ishii wanted to continue dancing ballet. This led her to sign up for the Academy’s advanced dance course. Although excited to dance for school, Ishii first had to overcome a few obstacles.

“It is very different (in Hawaii), and it was challenging for me,” Ishii said. “All the classes are (taught) in English, so I had a hard time understanding it.”

Despite the difficulties that Ishii faced, she enjoys her time at the Academy and finds it much easier to follow along in class. Ishii’s fellow classmates were not the only ones to recognize her abilities to learn quickly and take criticism well.

“What I admire most about Risa’s attitude in class is how open-minded she is to learning different styles and dance techniques,” said dance teacher Felicia Cazares. “She is very hard-working and is consistent in practicing to get (the dances) down.”

Outside of school, Ishii dances for Ballet Hawaii. Although she does not plan to pursue a career as a professional ballet dancer, Ishii does plan to keep ballet close to her heart–as a beloved hobby for many years to come.