Japan's Depth - Behind Japan galacticos Figure Skating Team #3 Yukina OTA: A Troubadour with Fire on the Ice
Our Japanese correspondent Aiko interviewed Yukina OTA @ Kyoto station.
Aug 18, 2011 in Kyoto

太田由希奈 Yukina Ota  Japan Sports
in the "Prince Ice World"

☞ in Japanese

On JapanSkates.com, you all have really long time no see Yukina OTA! since she was in Japan "galacticos" Figure Skating Team. Now she works as a professional Figure Skater, choreographer, TV commentator(of competitions), to continue shining Japan's Figure Skating. Yukina talked radiantly hilarious, and she made this interview so radiant. Enjoy such twinkling tea time with Yukina!

JS: Yukina, your last appearance on Japan Skates was in the summer of 2008.

YO: Yes, it was in Toronto, with Ryo (SHIBATA) .

JS: Then you announced your quitting competition when the season was kicked off…

YO: (smiles) Did I…?

JS: (smiles) As far as I know.

YO: …well…I did! (smiles) My coach Yutaka (HIGUCHI, who coaches Kento NAKAMURA & Yuki NISHINO) told me "You have to go to Canada.", but I couldn't see my goal at that time. He still recommended, "If you stay in a different place, you would have different mindset." So I went to Canada, and came back to Japan, then I quit! (laughs)

JS: (smiles) It sounds like you could see the light when you quit competitions!

JS: So, let us know about your right ankle injury, which seemed to concern you from 2003-2004 season to the last season, that you hadn't excused with. Was it "Osteochondritis dissecans"?

YO: It was "bone bruise", continuous twisting ankle caused.

JS: I got both arch of foot injured, when I had track&field trainings, then I had been concerned with painful tension on several muscles, which ran throughout my body. I imagine that you had the same pain.

YO: I might have like yours… I had tried not to strain my right ankle, then moves got awkward to force the knee to be strained.

JS: You had such pain for 4 seasons…

YO: Well… (Yukina turns uplifted:) Those seasons I had turned the corner which my body had changed into a lady body, which my home rink (in her hometown Kyoto) closed, - circumstances were going to tumble. While, my parents helped me to stay in the States, there's less humidity, my pain was going to dissolve. Icing and Taping also helped me to handle such pain. But, when I came back to Tokyo… "A-Fish-out-of-Water". (smiles) And, in North America, you receive great hospitality to skate. So I had struggled to train in Japan, in different circumstances from there. Yet, I wasn't going to have negative feelings with skating at all, to try to continue…

(Yukina's order arrived, a dessert plate.)

YO: Wow~♪ …What am I talking? (laughs)

JS: (laughs) Now, you came back to Tokyo.

YO: So, I was back, to continue to skate, thanks to host family in Tokyo. Although, I had some reflections of the present judging system.

JS: It can't provide reflection of your splendid Layback Spin in the finale of "Turandot"(2001-2003FS), it calls that "Level1"!

YO: Indeed. Hopefully it would give GOE+. …Such a gap, was getting wider and wider, between my own program to show and a competition program to win. I did never stop loving skating, but I felt that I would suffer from exhaustion with competing. Little girls have advantages with jumping, you know. I didn't want to participate in a competition if I could not perform in my style. And I could not have enough trainings to do that. …My "quitting competition" was a breaking news for my coach. (smiles)

JS: (smiles)

YO: Most Japanese skaters have competed by 22 years old, the season of graduation from University. But, "I would not, definitely." I supposed. I had imagined that I would quit when I felt "it's time." I wasn't sure when "it's time", 2nd year or 3rd year in university… It was time for moving on, suddenly. (smiles) Then I told the "final answer" to my coach and parents. …something like that.

JS: …I suppose, on Japan Skates there was filled with condolence, but people respected your decision, to be looking forward to your show programs as a professional Figure Skater.

YO: something like that?

JS: Yes. …We all love your flares - like a flared skirt.

YO: uh-huh.

JS: This judging system doesn't reflect your flares: Chasse-like jump in linking; soul-driven positions; such as the balletic hearts and minds of Yukina, and your armworks of spins…

YO: "armworks"?

JS: I love them! I prefer your Layback as a Backwards(Attitude) only! …Every lady converts Backwards into Sideways, or reverse, to take a level feature of "ISU judging system". I ask you to stay in Attitude!

YO: (smiles) - Attitude only to show the music with arms only.

JS: Then we could meet Yukina, again, shortly after blackout without you. As a professional Figure Skater.

YO: Yes, thankfully Prince Ice World (PIW, an ice entertainment leading company in Japan) asked me "to perform as a guest skater?" I told them "I quit competing," "So, why don't you join us?" "Thank You, why not!" decided right away. (smiles) So pleased to skate in PIW! It's so hard, even to go to the rinks, so far from my home (in Kyoto) . But I feel much hospitality to skate, for 3 seasons with PIW.

JS: Everyone wanna see your programs in PIW, but we can't until someone uploads on YouTube, from the Ice Show programs on TV. Your fans out of Japan, have lost their ways…

YO: (laughs) Go this way to Japan! hope you will enjoy PIW.

JS: (laughs) You can meet Yukina! if you enter the Prince Ice World, all over the sea.

YO: You can check out its schedule on internet. (laughs)

JS: (laughs) Tell us about your programs these 3 seasons. "Ave Maria" is your own choreography?

YO: It's co-choreographed with Masahiro KAWAGOE (Ryo's former coach) , in order to be reviewed by other direction. "The Piano", I asked Megumu SEKI, who had performed in PIW with me, and this season "Anastasia", is a work with Noriko SATO (a female coach of Fumie SUGURI on her trainings in Japan, Takuya KONDOH's choreographer.) Noriko is a graceful lady. She choreographed for me for the first time. She designed the costume, as well. "It should make you to look slim…" (smiles)

JS: You ARE slim!

YO: (smiles) Such a program produced by Noriko I could perform… such a wonderful season I had. I wasn't sure if PIW could be held after the disaster, though, I was able to train enough since a couple of months ago and I got satisfied with my performances in the end. I must have lots trainings for next season!

JS: In competitive years had you collaborated with choreographers, like Akko(SUZUKI)? Were your programs made of your own touch?

YO: "collaboration", it sounds different… My long-time choreographer was Tom (DICKSON) , and also I asked David (WILSON) to choreograph. Both of them gave me a new touch.

YO: Now I have choreographed, too, I think sessions with David meant a lot to me. Of course, I had learned a lot from Tom - "how to use breathing" for example. With David, I had tried to learn to "teach", since I started to work on coaching. So, I guess it helps me to teach.

JS: You had taught when you were student!

YO: No, I wasn't a teacher, but I wanted to be a teacher. Then I had tried to absorb coaching in trainings around last seasons, like "I would like to teach in my own way, to consider how I feel about the way of this coach.", "The way of this coach, how helpful it is!".

JS: Where have you worked at this moment?

YO: Like a troubadour. (smiles) I have traveled around to choreograph. I wonder if there was a rink in Kyoto. But I have so much fun! to go to various places, to have merry encounters with students, to make programs for them. (smiles)

JS: (smiles) It sounds fun!

YO: It's like a "trip" - I feel like it. I had made a lot of trips for international competitions and trainings, which made me flexible.

JS: Out of Japan, choreographers have been offered by "clients", I guess. On the other hand, Japanese skaters call them "Sen-Sei(teacher)". In Japan, choreographers "teach" dancing, unlike sell choreography. So good for Japan's Figure Skating!

YO: Little kids need help to skate, before dancing, you know. And choreographers could help main coaches who are facing tons of tasks. As well as kids seem to get motivated, "Yukina choreographed for me!?" - So happy for everyone! (smiles) I was also taught by Catarina (LINDGREN) , Tom's wife, she has worked on dancing and styling. I liked such a teacher when I met her. Now I feel like it.

JS: …You feel like so happy!

YO: Yes, so happy with choreography! (smiles)

JS: (smiles)

YO: Yet, I have skated so long… so far. If you train for yourself, you get off the ice after approx. 3 hours sessions, but if you choreograph for several students in a day, you must stay on the ice for hours, in shivering… such a tough work, though, choreographers don't freeze as we move to teach. …"Pleasure has a sting in its tail." (smiles)

JS: Then I see your tail swinging with fun!

YO: (smiles)

JS: Japan Skates founder Mark said "Just don't tell Yukina that!" but, you want to tell that when people say "don't tell that"…: Yukina is the Most Beautiful Younger Skater!


JS: and "Tomoko(IMAGAWA) is the Most Beautiful Older Skater". (LOL)

YO: Absolutely! I know she is.

JS: I asked her "What's your secret of staying beautiful?" so I would like to ask you "What's your secret of beauty on the ice?" Mark also said "love Yukina's skating style… she was always my favorite skater for her graceful moves on the ice." We definitely agree with him!

YO: Basically, your posture is important for beauty. Meanwhile, when I was around 18 years old, I found that I don't have to be restricted by classical ballet, yet it has importance to me. Tom likes modern style, such as modern ballet,

JS: - Contemporary piece.

YO: Yes, I danced them, and I saw "it could work on the ice". - that is motion to continue to flow, not to stop. Little ballet dancers might look so stiff, as I did. Since I have taken contemporary style, my moves could look floated.

YO: And I love dancing anyway! I'm gonna perform programs if there is mirror or suchlike to reflect me, in or out of my house. - It's showtime. (laughs)


YO: (LOL) Spontaneously. Like, when I feel good, sing and dance on stage! (laughs) From backstage, people say "Don't do that here, in Japan!" to me. (LOL)

JS: (LOL) WOW! I have never imagined Yukina would have such a Latin persona!

YO: Yes I have! (laughs)

JS: So, your 2002-2003FS"Turandot" had a different persona from 2001-2002 season.

YO: I made it in style the 2nd season, as I had performed a lot and had listened to music a lot. …"Turandot" was the music which I picked "I love this song!", to bring to Tom. I tried to understand its story, to research by myself. As for costume, "how about this color?" - I designed it by myself. …So, good for it? (smiles)

Yukina OTA 太田由希奈 2001-2003FS Turandotトゥーランドット @ 2002 All-Japan National Championships  paja
2001-2003FS"Turandot" @ 2002 All-Japan

JS: It's your masterpiece when you were 15-16 years old. People call kids "junior", when they take a look at age, but I call Yukina at 15-16 "a superb performer". Particularly, girls could have their own taste, like "I love it!".

YO: Well, I had a stubborn taste. (smiles)

YO: While, on one competition I could do well apparently, English commentators called "no expression!", "even though her Layback is fantastic and her skating is fabulous." (smiles)

JS: Well… I have watched it…

YO: (smiles) Have you? In the States, most skaters could act on the ice with fancy faces, that I hadn't. …So, I try to have a face! in PIW. Actually, faces have been seen on screen so frequently, I should skate in style with facial expression. In PIW, I hope to complete missing pieces of my competition programs. I wanted to do that in competitions, but I wasn't able to take care of that. As I wanted to skate with one song to dance, but it wasn't played, because it wasn't suitable for competition. Now, with free hand I can do the things I want. …So, good for me?

JS: …(preparing the next question.)

YO: …I'm going to go to NY! next time, with my college seminar which I learn sports business - that we plan to absorb there. Going to Yankee Stadium, watching US Open (tennis) and NFL, we will study how to organize and promote. Managers there will talk with us, as well. A long time ago, I had been cast in some ice shows in NY, so I'm going to meet my friends there. Then you said "lived in Brooklyn (NY) before" earlier, that reminds me Brooklyn! such a good old days! (smiles) I must go to Brooklyn, too!

JS: (smiles) so pleased that I could guide you towards Brooklyn!

YO: Is it quite expensive to live in NY?

JS: Indeed, so you live in Brooklyn, out of Manhattan - such a lush island.

YO: through Brooklyn Bridge.

JS: also, by train, by ferry! I loved those views from ferry.

YO: sounds nice.

JS: Brooklyn provides you city life, …though, unlike Manhattan the dazzling city with its royal scam. But you must get satisfied with a life in Brooklyn.

YO: And there is a rink in Brooklyn. I went there for practices of the ice shows. "We're gonna go to Brooklyn to skate," "Brooklyn!? - sounds funny!" (laughs)

JS: "Brooklyn sounds funny"!? (laughs)

YO: I can't wait! to go there, NY! …In competitive years I had trained in North America and competed in Europe mostly, I went out of Japan so often, now I haven't at all. "I wanna go out! - Home! Sweet Home!" I really wanted, then it happened to me! as a sports business study tour.

JS: When I was in Brooklyn, I had never imagined that I would write about Figure Skating, and could meet Yukina OTA - it happened to me!

YO: (laughs)

JS: …But I watched people skating in between building and building.

YO: At Rockefeller Center?

JS: Yes!

YO: In winter, Christmas season the rink appears at the heart of big apple!

JS: It happens!

YO: I had an exhibition program there, it was frosty! (laughs)

JS: Absolutely! I wondered at people in the coldest time, coldest place, doing the coldest thing! (laughs)

YO: (laughs) I was frozen with sheer costume at that time, I worried "I could not show anything…", but I was able to spin. Doing Layback, I saw the Christmas tree in the starry skyline. "I'm gonna die… with rapture." (laughs)

JS: (laughs) You are totally different from my imaginary Yukina!

YO: (laughs) How is your imaginary me?

JS: She is… like a nun. (LOL)

YO: (LOL) Someone said so before. People say "it seems not easy to talk to you".

JS: You seem to be utmost restrictive to yourself…

YO: I had restricted myself. (smiles) Now I have both soft and hard surface.

JS: You feel like "Stature of Liberty" in NY!

YO: (laughs) I might absorb good taste of the States I lived. While, you realize that you're Japanese when you're out of Japan, so I wanted to cherish Classical Japanese taste. It's good balanced. I feel like fun. (smiles)

JS: (smiles) I get attached to people so easily,

YO: uh-huh. (smiles)

JS: But I should not do that in Japan, that means impoliteness in Japan… Yet I have to do for Yukina!

YO: (laughs)

Yukina OTA 太田由希奈 @ Rockefeller Center  paja
@ Rockefeller Center

JS: Now it's easy to talk about "Yukina and ballet" - about your favorite dancers and programs.

YO: I'm not knowledgeable so much. Well… I have watched the stage of Testuya KUMAKAWA. I love ballet-themed movies, "Center Stage" in which Illia Kuliik plays a Russian dancer, was played a lot. As for programs… I watched "Swan Lake" for my program (2006-2007/2008-2009SP) . Unlike your imaginary ballet lessons, I had balletic trainings for skating. We invited a ballet teacher to our rink, asked to review programs mainly, asked for bar method a little bit. I had continued it from 8 years old to high schooler, until my rink closed. Then I left to the States, there must be ballet sessions - I took modern ballet. So, I was always dancing. But I wasn't able to dance when I got injured… Anyway! I love dancing! love Gekidan Shiki (Japanese musical company) and Cirque du Soleil, too…

JS: Cirque! me too!!

YO: Even they have fantasies.

JS: They have DVDs&Blu-rays catalogue, except for "O", that I hope to watch it someday in Las Vegas!

YO: me too! My friend skated music from "O", that song is fantastic. I hope to skate Cirque songs someday.

JS: Please! hope to see Yukina will perform "O"… and "Ka"!

YO: "Ka"?

JS: - the next show after "O", which tastes Chinoiserie-Modern. I suppose it's Yukina-in-"Picasso Dance"(2003-2004SP) suite.

YO: uh-huh. …I just got crazy in love with Cirque. My first time I went to Cirque show, I entered the tent after buying ice cream. (laughs) With ice cream in my hands, the show opened. I had just dropped my jaw throughout the show, then I felt something cold on me, the ice cream melted on me! (laughs)

JS: (laughs)

YO: It knocked me out! …They have fantastic Clown Act as well. Lately I hope to play a clown-like role in PIW. Not only a beautiful role, but also a comedic role. I would like to show colorful tastes. Last PIW, I had performed flamenco! So I hope to paint my programs in more and more colors, season by season. …Well, Cirque is colorful, anyway! (smiles)

JS: way colorful! (smiles) Which shows are your favorites of Cirque?

YO: I haven't watched them except for "ZED" (resident show in Tokyo) , yet.

JS: So I recommend you "Alegria", "Quidam", "Midnight Sun" a 25 years anniversary event! They are not only fantastic act but also fantastic literature. "Corteo" is their latest best I guess.

YO: Where are they played now?

JS: In Europe, South America… run around the world.

YO: Now "Kooza" stops in Japan!

JS: "Kooza" has similar theme to "Quidam"!

YO: Have you watched them all? (smiles)

JS: …except for "O". (smiles) They are recorded. "O" has never moved out of Las Vegas, never ever! It's a resident show(since 1998). I suspect it would never be recorded, because they might plot to force Cirque-addicted people to come to Las Vegas… AS Yukina has never be seen, until your fans come to Japan!

YO: (laughs)

JS: Japanese synchronized swimmer had been cast in "O".

YO: Fumiko OKUNO! She's an OG of my University. I took a look at her profile, "former artist of Cirque du Soleil" written! I know she was in "O".

JS: I had never known it would be "Yukina and Cirque" act!

YO: (laughs) "Me and Cirque" story… As a prologue, I met Kathy JOHNSON, a modern dance teacher. (Jeremy ABBOTT and Patrick CHAN are her current students.) She is such a fantastic person, as skaters who trained with me in Colorado, and top skaters from there, we all loved her. Really fantastic teacher! who has taught what is performing, along with how to perform. As well as she has corrected impoliteness. When the students said "hi…" without eye contact in greeting, she told them off, "When I come in without greeting, only to play music, - how do you feel?" Out of Japan, as I see it, there are not so much teachers like her, who teaches way of life. There is tradition of individualism. So, some students could not be attached to her, but I was so much! loved her choreography, too! and her selected songs to dance were mostly… "Cirque du Soleil"! As a trivia, she graduated from The Juilliard School! "I wanna go to Juilliard, too!" - as a daydream! (laughs) …Both modern ballet and Cirque du Soleil she let me fall in. I wish I could make a program in Colorado next spring. So I have plotted to go there when she is there, to catch her! (smiles)

JS: wish you a merry reunion!

JS: As I see it, Cirque connects with Figure Skating…

YO: Yes, it does!

JS: "Act" means elements of Figure Skating.

YO: uh-huh.

JS: Then I wanna see more Cirque programs on the ice! (smiles)

YO: Then I recommend skaters its songs, which must fit the ice! (smiles)

JS: As an epilogue, the last question. I have tried to figure out how you felt when you quit competing, and I suppose that… "Yukina got romance!"

YO: "romance"!? (LOL)

JS: (LOL) kinda… When I'm beside my boyfriend, I'm caught by enigma, which makes me satisfied, like "I don't have to do things anymore…"

YO: Do you!? …I never! (LOL) No one supposed that! (LOL)

JS: (LOL) No one?

YO: (LOL) No one! …though, someone asked "Do you have fun with other thing?"

JS: …Competitors say they have fun with skating, skating, and skating.

YO: Yes they do. We have no "room". Yet, we grow up with skating, achieving excitement, pleasure, a big moment. I really hung up my boots for a month before I left to the States, to go out with my friends, watching movies… then I was going to suffer from those days, since I had worked on one thing to devote myself, along with school and other things. That's my lifestyle. I can't make my way until I go this way on main road. Now I go this way on main road of PIW, along with choreographing, TV commentary sometimes, and studying at University. If you find the clear direction to go, you could read the directions of life.

JS: That's Classical Japanese taste… there is tradition of dedication.

YO: Yes! To dedicate.

JS: And a Canadian site Japan Skates has been dedicated for Japanese skaters "dedication", for the guys love your sacrificial attitude.

YO: I see. …But we all love Figure Skating, that's all. If you don't, you can't continue it, you can't stand its issues to concern. Although, you achieve rapture. Already, skating has been built in my life. So, if it got removed, I would miss it… or, my life would be turned down. …Now I go to the rink by car for its duration of one hour. Such a tough round trip to train. You can't take it easy on Figure Skating. No matter what, I continue it - because I have such emotions with Figure Skating, I guess. As I appreciate that I can continue it, and thank people's affection. With PIW, I hope to continue skating until "it's time."

JS: …What a finale! of this interview.

YO: (smiles)

JS: Totally different Yukina from imaginary! I bet our readers have dropped their jaws throughout this interview with amazing Yukina!

YO: How was "amazing me"? (laughs)

JS: How amazing it could be, if you were in Japan Team now…

YO: (smiles) So you can go this way to PIW!

JS: (laughs) It's held from spring to summer every year.

YO: Now I let me fall into Yoga!

JS: Yoga! …What did you do as off-ice trainings?

YO: Strengthening in gymnastic class, running around rinks 3-5 laps before and after on-ice trainings… actually I loved running, it could refresh my mind and be an diet, so I was running. had been running!

JS: You achieve enigma, which makes your heart to leap. (smiles)

YO: Yes, you will come out. You have good circulation on every aspect, to get positive-minded. (smiles) I really loved it! I had competed in a new year's race in Kyoto, every year! (laughs)

JS: (laughs)

YO: One year, I won a prize! (LOL)

JS: !! (LOL)

YO: My high school teachers found my name on newspaper, got LOL, "What's the matter with you!" (LOL)


YO: …But I wasn't able to run after I got injured.

JS: …No, you weren't, since you could not bounce your foot against the ground, due to ankle injury.

YO: So I worked on cycling, in order to bounce such frustration from me… Meanwhile, I met Yoga, shortly after that. I'm so flexible to perform various postures with fun, it caught me! (smiles)

JS: (smiles)

YO: Even you can feel like floating in the air… like "master Yoda"! (laughs)

JS: Yukina comes out to be "Yoda"!? (laughs)

YO: (laughs) Besides, you can learn to balance, on such as "Shirshasana" the headstand Posture. You can't fix up postures until you fix your mindset, it works on balancing to have the clear direction to go.

YO: Now I have the direction, to skate for PIW… thanks to my coaches and teachers, I could make some good results. Studying at university for a while, I'm going to go this way! …with such condolence: "I would not be cast in Cirque du Soleil…" (laughs)

JS: (laughs) - "Why don't you Cirque, you can make an ice show, as you did a water show O."

YO: "Yes, you can!" …yet, it may be costly that they make an ice stage. But it could be fantastic! In Tokyo, a lot of show skaters could be cast. When I went to "ZED", it was cool, so "If they would throw the ice, I could skate." (laughs)

JS: (laughs)

YO: Lately, synthetic ice is getting improved, wish it could be another ice.

JS: And I wish the ice shows could be created as one program.

YO: - as one-themed: "West Side Story", "Carmen", etc. Ice show could be painted in more colors, if it would have one tone. …Well, I'm not sure if it could, until I quit skating, but I could show the direction to go, for my students, when they want to skate as a professional Figure Skater. So I give my all! …Even though it could not come true in my generation, I hope I will make their way for the next generation. While, motivated skaters make their way by themselves, you know.

JS: …I really get motivated! with Yukina, what a lady!

YO: (laughs)

JS: I come out! at all, in the freedom of Yukina, my pores fully open… like in sauna!

YO: What!? (LOL)

太田由希奈 Yukina Ota  Japan Sports
in the "Prince Ice World"

JS: A farewell moment. Please leave a message for us.

☞ Yukina Ota @ Kyoto station on August 18, 2011

+++ translation +++
YO: Hi there, long time no see you, I’m Yukina Ota. I’m fine, thank you. Now I have skated in PIW, studied at University, choreographed for the skaters, as well. If you would like to watch my programs again, please come to PIW, it’s my pleasure!

☞ Yukina's Interviews on Japan Skates