Meet TBDA nominee Ako Kondo

2015 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award nomineesThe 2015 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award nominees were unveiled earlier this year by The Australian Ballet. Nominees include company dancers Benedicte Bemet (Mackay, QLD), Jasmin Durham (Gordon, ACT), Robyn Hendricks (Port Elizabeth, South Africa), newly-appointed principal dancer Ako Kondo (Nagoya, Japan), Amanda McGuigan (Summer Hill, NSW) and Marcus Morelli (Brighton, VIC).


As part of a new series of unique artist-dancer collaborations produced by major sponsor Telstra, each nominee was paired with a talented Australian installation artist or designer to create a work that was filmed and photographed. 


Australian Ballet Principal Ako KondoThe Telstra Ballet Dancer Award (TBDA) is considered the most prestigious prize in Australian ballet and is one of several initiatives run by Telstra in partnership with The Australian Ballet, aimed at fostering young ballet dancers to reach their full potential. Now in its 13th year, the award will bestow one winner with a $20,000 cash prize and will be announced on Thursday, December 3. The winner of the People’s Choice Award, decided by public vote, will receive $5,000.


Dance Informa is profiling each nominee in the weeks leading up to the announcement. Following Benedicte Bemet, Jasmin Durham and Robyn Hendricks, we’ll now take a look at Ako Kondo!


Kondo was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1991. At three years old, she began her training at Shiho Kanazawa Ballet Studio. In 2005 she won second prize at the Japan Grand Prix and in 2006 she studied at The Royal Ballet School’s International Summer School. In 2007, she was awarded The Australian Ballet School Tuition Scholarship, which was announced at the Youth America Grand Prix. Kondo toured with The Dancers Company in 2008, and in 2010 she joined The Australian Ballet.


Australian Ballet Principal Ako KondoKondo was promoted to senior artist in 2014, and principal artist in April of this year following her debut as Giselle in Maina Gielgud’s Giselle. She is most well known for her roles as Nikiya in Stanton Welch’s La Bayadere last year and as Baroness Von Rothbart in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake this year. She’s also acclaimed for dancing as the Mistress in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon (2014), Titania in Frederick Ashton’s The Dream (2015), the Sugar Plum Fairy in Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker (2014), Kitri in Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote (2013) and the Sylphide in La Sylphide (2013).


For her TBDA collaboration, Kondo worked with sculptor Dion Horstmans. He watched her movement and took inspiration to create a piece of art. He noted that when he looks at her he sees “flight… geometry… and fragmented, crazy lines.” [See full video below.]


When reflecting on her journey in dance, Kondo noted, “When I was younger, I was told that I’m not suited for ballet and I was quite upset because I loved ballet and wanted to keep going.”


She continued, “I might not have long legs like others but I’ve got short legs that I can move much faster. Something clicked in my head and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to think about negative things; I want to think about positive.’”



Photo (top): The TBDA 2015 nominees. Photo by Esteban La Tessa, courtesy of The Australian Ballet. Photo (left): Ako Kondo. Photo by Daniel Boud. Photo (right): Kondo. Photo courtesy of The Australian Ballet.

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