SUU to Everywhere

Saki Kawakita Scheller (’08)

Saki Kawakita Scheller (’08)
SUU to The Washington Ballet

Originally published on January 19, 2023.

Growing up in Hyogo, Japan, Saki Kawakita Scheller wished to study dance in America, and for advice, asked a U.S.-based friend, Hollywood writer/director/producer Mitsuyo Miyazaki (’99). She was told to dance right over to SUU, and has never regretted it.

Today she is a teaching artist for The Washington School of Ballet, after eight years as the company’s education programs manager. “I am not looking for a future ballet dancer,” she says, “but to provide the opportunity of self-discovery…very important.”

She herself grew from self-discovery, through a grandmother who exposed her richly to the arts, and when Saki found musical theater, she found her passion, even with barriers ahead. “Performing arts is not thought of as a ‘stable job’ in my country,” she says, “but I wasn’t ready to give up, and chose to seek an opportunity outside of Japan.”

Naturally, at SUU, she steered to the dance program, finding encouraging faculty members and students, and most loved Shauna Mendini’s Creative Movement for Children class. “I found that promoting movement and activity in young children helps increase memory, perception, language, attention, emotion and even decision-making. I never saw dance from this angle before; it was a big game-changer.”

Upon graduation, she earned an internship at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts via SUU’s Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service. She had immersed herself in the SUU experience, as president of the Orchesis modern dance company and a ballroom team member, among many activities and, she says, spent nearly all waking hours on campus.

“I learned to multi-task constantly and to plan my day/semester wisely. Because I mastered that life skill of planning, I am able to get everything done on time,” says the mother of three of her demanding job.

She points to her students’ performance at the Obama White House Halloween Party as a highlight of her D.C. experience thus far.