1997 was the year when both the National Ballet of Japan (NBJ) was launched under Artistic Director SHIMADA Hiroshi, and the New National Theatre, Tokyo opened as a centre point of new Japanese stagecraft. The NBJ's repertoire is broad in scope, embracing classics such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker; 20th century works by choreographers such as Frederick ASHTON, George BALANCHINE, Roland PETIT, and Kenneth MACMILLAN; as well as works by contemporary choreographers such as Boris EIFMAN, Nacho DUATO, Hans van MANEN, Twyla THARP, and David BINTLEY. The NBJ also seeks to project an image of its own, with initiatives such as the commissioning of world-class choreographers to create original pieces for the NBJ repertoire.
The NBJ was awarded an Asahi Performing Arts Award in 2004 for its production of Raymonda, choreographed by the Artistic Director at the time, MAKI Asami. The company made its overseas debut in 2008 when it appeared at the Kennedy Center in the United States, followed by an invitation to the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre in 2009, where it performed La Dame aux Camélias, choreographed by MAKI Asami, with resounding success. The NBJ is highly rated internationally both for its much praised soloists and corps de ballet.
The NBJ's first two artistic directors, SHIMADA Hiroshi, and then MAKI Asami, contributed greatly to ballet in Japan followed by the famous contemporary British choreographer, David BINTLEY. BINTLEY's first involvement with the NBJ was Carmina Burana in 2005, then he created a new full-length ballet Aladdin for NBJ in 2008. He was then appointed as Artistic Director from the 2010/2011 season. The company's repertoire has expanded even further under BINTLEY, and in 2011 NBJ presented the world premiere of the full-length ballet The Prince of the Pagodas choreographed by BINTLEY.
OHARA Noriko led the ballet company as Ballet Mistress from 1999, was appointed Assistant Director in 2010, and Artistic Director in September 2014. OHARA set the company in its new direction with a new production of The Sleeping Beauty and is currently leading the NBJ to new heights.