SAB Trailblazer – Gen Horiuchi

Gen Horiuchi perfroming Capriccio Italien Op. 45, as a student with School of American Ballet; photo by Martha Swope, courtesy New York City Ballet

This month’s SAB Trailblazer is Gen Horiuchi. Originally from Tokyo and the son of two dancers, Mr. Horiuchi grew up dancing – in fact, his childhood home was directly above the ballet studio his parents owned. At age 16, he moved to the United States to study on scholarship at SAB after winning the Prix de Lausanne in 1980. Two years later, he was invited to join the New York City Ballet, where, by 1989 he had risen to the rank of principal dancer.

During his 14-year career with the Company, Mr. Horiuchi danced numerous roles and originated the role of Mercury in George Balanchine’s Persephone created in 1982 for the Stravinsky Centennial Celebration. He also danced on Broadway and performed the role of Mr. Mistoffelees in the original production of CATS and became the first performer to perform the role on both Broadway and London’s West End in 1998.

In 2000, Mr. Horiuchi became artistic director of the financially struggling Saint Louis Ballet, reviving it from a company of 7 to 20 dancers, growing its operating budget, and revitalizing its school – increasing enrollment from 50 students to roughly 350. Among overseeing all artistic operations and many of the administrative operations of SLB, Mr. Horiuchi also generally choreographs two ballets a season.

Watch this profile on Mr. Horiuchi to learn more about his life and impact on ballet in St. Louis:

As a choreographer, Mr. Horiuchi takes great inspiration from George Balanchine, but also from his work in musical theater. Many of his ballets infuse contemporary dance, jazz and theatrical production elements with classic ballet technique, grace, and precision. He has created a dozen original works for SLB and occasionally will share the stage with his company members in new works. He explained in an interview for Pointe Magazine in 2017 that taking class and performing with his company dancers helps him stay connected to them.

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Gen Horiuchi with Saint Louis Ballet in his piece “Passage.” Photo by Pratt Kreidich.
“It’s important for me to dance with them. Of course, I cannot jump and turn as I used to, but I know how to present myself on stage, and sharing those [teachable] moments with the dancers connects with them more than me just telling them what to do.”

Mr. Horiuchi also choreographed the 1998 Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan which allowed him to present his choreography on a grand scale and worldwide stage.

Mr. Horiuchi’s successes as a dancer, choreographer and artistic director are impressive enough, but his ability to bring classical ballet, new choreographic works, and high-quality ballet training to the Saint Louis community is especially inspiring.

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Mr. Horiuchi with SAB faculty members Suki Schorer and Susan Pilarre in 2019.

SAB is grateful to have Mr. Horiuchi as a member of the Alumni Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and we honor him for his life-long commitment to excellence in dance and accessibility to the art form for all.