Arts and Entertainment

A once-reluctant dancer finds his bliss in performance

Kuu Sakuragi, foreground, plays the eponymous real boy in Pacific Northwest Ballet School
Kuu Sakuragi, foreground, plays the eponymous real boy in Pacific Northwest Ballet School's family production of 'Pinocchio,' opening Sunday.
— image credit: Copyright of Rex Tranter

When Kuu Sakuragi was a third-grader at Ardmore Elementary, he was one of two students selected by Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s DanceChance program to receive a scholarship for one season’s dance instruction. His parents were ecstatic, but Sakuragi had to be figuratively dragged kicking and screaming to the Francia Russell Center.

That was just the first year. By the second year…

“I still didn’t like it,” Sakuragi said simply. “Because I was the only boy.”

Then-principal Nicholas Ade encouraged Sakuragi to take classes at the school’s Seattle campus, where he met other male ballet students.

“I liked it a lot,” Sakuragi said. “Now I can talk to other boys studying ballet and, since we’re going through the same things, we can relate.”

Sakuragi, now 15, proved a capable student and eventually advanced to Level Eight, the highest in the student division, where advancement is determined by mastery of skills in the school syllabus.

The Interlake student will play the part of “real boy” Pinocchio, the human being the puppet wishes to become, in the upcoming installment of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Family Matinee series. As a featured performer, he must not only dance masterfully, but do so to express the emotions of his character. It’s a challenge he welcomes, he said.

“I think (performing) is one of my favorite parts of ballet,” Sakuragi said. “Sometimes I still question why I do it because it takes all my energy and time. I don’t do other activities. I’m not a great student, either. But I love performing, being on stage with the lights and the audience. It makes me feel special. It makes me feel like I’m worth something.”

Having developed a love for his chosen art form, Sakuragi hopes to move on to the Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s professional division, where students transitioning to a career in dance are trained in perfecting technique and artistry.

“Pinocchio” will run for four performances beginning March 16. Find showtimes and ticket information under the 2013-2014 Season page of


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