Houston Charity Guide
this swan soars

Houston Ballet dancer leaps into must-see international virtual show

Houston Ballet dancer leaps into must-see international virtual show

Houston Ballet principal Yuriko Kajiya as Princess Aurora with artists of Houston Ballet in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty
Houston Ballet principal Yuriko Kajiya as Princess Aurora in the Houston Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty. Kajiya joined in The Dying Swan virtual performance for Swan for Relief.  Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Misty Copeland at American Heart Association Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2016
Misty Copeland organized Swans for Relief to raise funds for dance companies across the world.  Photo by Getty Images for AHA
Houston Ballet principal Yuriko Kajiya as Princess Aurora with artists of Houston Ballet in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty
Misty Copeland at American Heart Association Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2016

International ballet mega-phenomenon, Misty Copeland, has put together an all-star swan team for dancer COVID-19 relief, and Houston Ballet's Yuriko Kajiya has joined this stunning dance flight.

With performing arts severely impacted by the pandemic, Copeland and her former colleague and golden dancer, Joseph Phillips, organized the Swans for Relief GoFundMe Charity campaign. To support the charity, they called together a flock of stunning and powerful swans to create a special video virtual performance of The Dying Swan.

The 32 ballerinas who heard the call and joined this stellar swan lineup come from ballet companies around the world including the US, Australia, the UK, South Africa, Norway, Russia, Cuba, France, the Philippines, Canada, Austria, Mexico, Denmark, and China. Performing solo in living rooms, rooftops, gardens, kitchens, and the occasionally studio, extraordinary dancers in 14 countries together create one Le Cygne (The Swan) choreography by Michel Fokine and music by Camille Saint-Saëns, performed by cellist Wade Davis.

Houston Ballet’s Yuriko Kajiya makes her appearance early in the dance, looking like she’s ready to take her segment to the Wortham stage. Since she began her dance training at age eight, Kajiya has made impressive leaps from Japan to Canada to the American Ballet Theatre and finally to the Houston Ballet in 2014 when following her performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker she was promoted to principle soloist.

Like most dance companies, the Houston Ballet had to cancel the remainder of its 2019-2020 season in March. Since then have set up an impressive array of virtual performances and online opportunities, including the HB At Home miniseries, HB Online Boutique, their En Pointe blog, and Brunch with Houston Ballet for subscribers. 

Describing the situation for the performing arts around the world on the Swans for Relief GoFundMe site, Copeland and Phillips explain the uncertainty dancers and companies are facing.

“The live performance aspect of what we do means so much to us, and this time away from the stage has proven difficult as performing not only provides us with a means to live, but it also is what keeps us feeling alive,” state Copeland and Phillips, adding, “Consequently, many dancers are unable to depend on paychecks and are facing the hardship of paying rent and/or buying food and other necessities.”

With a goal of $500,000 the fund has already raised $176,000 as of May 11. 

According to the Swans for Relief GoFundMe campaign, which gives thanks to seed funding from K Period Media, the funds raised will be distributed to each dancer’s company’s COVID-19 relief fund, or other arts/dance-based relief funds in the event that a company is not set up to receive donations.