A Different Kind of Performing Arts Student at the University Center for the Arts

A Different Kind of Performing Arts Student at the University Center for the Arts – Sayaka Karasugi-Ruggles, Dance

We have all heard the term “non-traditional” student before at a university. Usually you think of someone who wants to pursue a career change, or a parent who can attend college now that their child is older.  This fall semester, the dance program at Colorado State University enrolled a different type of non-traditional student – a retired ballerina.

Performing arts major Sayaka Karasugi-Ruggles is in her first semester at CSU. A soloist at Colorado Ballet for 10 years, Sayaka has devoted her life to ballet. From Kumamoto, Japan, Sayaka left her home country to study at Shanghai Ballet in Shanghai, China, and then to Canada to study at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.

“Dance has been my whole life,” says Sayaka. “In order to dance, I left Japan as a child, lived in a different country, learned a new language and made my career in a foreign country.”

Sayaka’s career flourished as she toured with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Then in 2001, she joined Colorado Ballet, ascending the ranks to become soloist, and dancing in numerous roles including Kitri in Don Quixote and Fleur de Lis in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

A dance related foot injury led to Sayaka’s retirement from Colorado Ballet in 2011. After leaving Colorado Ballet, Sayaka thought it was time to go back to school.

“It has always been one of my goals to receive a university diploma. In order to become a professional dancer, I had to choose to work before going to college. When I retired from professional performance, I had this chance to experience a new side of life,” says Sayaka.

As a performing arts dance major at CSU, Sayaka is learning technical production and design for dance, including lighting, costuming and music.

According to Assistant Professor of Ballet Carol Roderick, this is a huge transistion from the professional dance world, where dancers are strictly performers

The upcoming Fall Dance Concert on Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12 will feature Sayaka in what will be one of her few performances at CSU. With the CSU Ballet Repertory Ensemble, Sayaka will dance the pas de deux in excerpts of the ballet Don Quixote.

“I am excited to dance with the other students, and to make a contribution to the concert,” says Sayaka. “I think I am new and different to my fellow students, and they are new and different to me! We are learning a lot about each other, and also learning from each other.”

As for the CSU dance program, Karasugi hopes to see it grow in the future, and she hopes to teach ballet and modern at the university level.