Interview with Noriko Takahashi

In July, I was in Las Vegas and had the opportunity to have lunch with Noriko Takahashi. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for our members. I was interested, from an educational point of view, in how her competitive twirling experiences had helped in her theatrical performance career as a member of the Cirque du Soleil show “KA”. Noriko was the premier Sr. Woman freestylist for many years and portrayed characters as diverse as the “Little Mermaid” to a Cirque du Soleil style mime. Noriko is this tiny 90 lb woman whose performances are mesmerizing. Tom Cruise is a fan who has caught her show several times as well as Michael Jackson who worked feverishly to get her to be in his final tour (contract restrictions prohibited it). One other important note: She wanted to eat at one of those “all you can eat” Las Vegas buffets. She made two trips to the buffet and came back with her plate piled high and then returned for dessert! I was astounded at the amount of food she could consume and am jealous of her metabolism! Thanks to Dale White for providing the questions and to Amanda Guidroz for putting this video interview in a written question and answer format.

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Q: What is the difference between performing for a theater audience and a competition audience?

A: I think it is basically the same but with one small difference. While competing I practiced many days and hours for just 1 performance, but for the show I practice and perform every day. Performing for a world championship audience is very exciting with a warm welcome from every audience member. It is a single event set up with the best stage of athletes. It is exciting to have an array of countries all gathered around giving heart-felt cheers for all of the twirlers. The theater show is interactive with the audience and I am able feed off of their energy and they are able to do the same to create a connection. The connection that I get to experience with the audience is something experienced every day rather than just at competitions.

Q: Do you still practice every day?

A: Yes, I practice every day. I do not perform on Sunday and Monday, but I still practice on those days. I don’t know what to do with myself on those days that I have “off”. Practicing on these days allows me to get mentally fresh and stable.

Q: Since you mentioned that you practice every day, how do you keep your role fresh so it does not become boring?

A: I still get nervous to perform on the stage. Even though my role is the same, there are some conditions that arise that propose some challenges. I have been told by others that after all this time I should not be nervous. When I reflect on that, I feel that when the moment comes that I am no longer nervous then that is a sign that I need to change my job.

Q: Is a facility provided for your practice time?

A: Yes a facility is provided with a training room that has a large space and a high ceiling.

Q: You were an outstanding and successful freestyle competitor. What qualities did you learn as a freestyle competitor that prepared you to perform as an artist?

A: My coach had chosen many different genres for me throughout the years. I had many experiences to learn how to interpret many different styles. As a particular genre was selected for me, I not only learned baton twirling skills but the performing and acting skills as well. I was a very shy person, so I took classes in the genre that was selected for me to perform each year. Doing freestyle is not just doing an event, it is a way to explore and express yourself. Freestyle is a beautiful category that allowed me to gather many treasures and learning experiences that allows me to be in the theater now.

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Noriko would like to thank USTA for many opportunities over the years and contributes her success from learning and receiving education from USTA.

About Jackie Stewart

Jackie Stewart is one of the premier coaches and judges in the sport of baton twirling. Her knowledge encompasses forty years of experience in the field. Her passion for the sport is shared with athletes, other coaches, and judges. She is the Director of the Education Department for USTA, the twirling organization that is renowned for it's educational opportunities for professionals. As the Judges Chair for the World Baton Twirling Federation, she travels extensively to educate and facilitate the training of athletes, coaches and judges throughout the world. Her greatest accomplishment is her six grandchildren (3 boys and 3 girls) who are perfect in every way. Jackie lives in Spring Hill, TN and in her spare time she likes to play golf, tennis, read historical novels, and she's addicted to The Good Wife, Mad Men, and Nurse Jackie.