Hello, welcome back! This is Company Dancer, Noriko Zaragoza again. I am going to talk a little bit about where I am originally from, why I love dancing so much, and about how food affects my life and body.
Growing Up in Japan
I grew up in a very strict Japanese household and my parents believed that success meant going to college, getting a degree, and working for a big corporation. They wanted to me to make a decent amount of money in order to support myself then eventually find a husband that could take over the financial responsibilities so that I could become a full time housewife. Somehow I ended up doing something completely opposite of their beliefs!
When I was five years old I told my parents, “I would like to be a professional ballet dancer,” and they didn’t take me seriously. From the very beginning my parents thought I was wasting my time and I should be doing something else. Although they did not fully support my decision to dance, they did offer me financial support that allowed me to receive formal classical ballet training. I know that was their way of showing love but it’s a little sad to think that was the only kind of support they showed me. I can barely remember my mom coming to my recitals and my dad would never stay for my performances. To this day they have never seen me dance in a professional performance and whenever we talk they always want me to stop dancing and stay home to raise children. I realized this is how it was going to be very early in life and this is why I needed to “grow up” quickly in order to become independent and support my own dream of becoming a dancer.
At the age of eight my parents decided they would continue to pay for my ballet classes but would not take extra time to drive me back and forth. I decided I wanted to continue, so every day I took the train and bus two hours to get to my ballet school. When I was 14 I had a life changing experience when I visited New York with my dad. I took a class at the Broadway Dance Center, and at the end of the visit I talked with one of the instructors. I asked for her autograph, but what she gave me instead was a memo saying, “You have talent.” I clearly remember she also said, “Don’t be afraid to visit here again.” I still have the memo from her and look at it sometimes when I question myself or need a reminder of why I love ballet so much.
It is very difficult to say that your occupation is a “professional ballet dancer” back home in Japan, but it seems very possible here in the States. That was one of the main reasons I came here and it was a lifelong dream of mine to become a professional dancer in the USA since that visit to New York when I was 14. I had a very busy schedule growing up and I used to dance until 11pm on top of attending regular school. I continued training in Japan up until graduating high school because I had promised my parents that I would at least get a high school diploma.
When I first came to dance in the States it was on an O1 Visa. I was not allowed to work outside of the company listed on my visa, so I would go home to Japan every summer to make money in order to support myself. I was a good waitress and cake cutter. It is so funny that we have jobs in Japan specifically for cutting cakes, but I was one of them and they sent me to special training to learn this skill. I learned most of my baking skills over there and also got some ideas for cooking.
My Love of Food
My mom is a wonderful cook but she only makes Japanese food. I learned to cook by watching her and helping her whenever I could in the kitchen. My love for food definitely comes from my parents. My mom would always cook three meals a day no matter what and my dad maintained a really large garden on our property in Japan. I grew up eating farm to table style and I now believe fresh organic food is so important. I love supporting local business, such as shopping at the local farmers markets. There is a reason quality food is slightly more expensive, and you can really tell the difference when you try it.
The reason I am talking about food here is because I wanted everyone to know how important home cooking is to me. I want to feed my husband safe, healthy food and we even feed our dog’s human grade organic dog food. Home cooking is the best advice I have for all of you trying to be healthy. How are you supposed to know what is actually in the food you eat if it is pre-made or processed? Every once in a while it is ok, but cooking your own food is definitely the way to go.
I don’t have a specific diet that I follow. For breakfast I eat pretty much the same thing every day. Some kind of carb (bread, oat meal, even rice sometimes), some type of probiotic (yogurt, drinking yogurt), a little bit of fruit, coffee with milk or black tea and a few supplements such as multivitamins or Chinese herbs if I need them.
Lunchtime is tricky. I can’t dance with a stuffed tummy, so I snack most of the time. When I am busy I don’t even have time to snack, so often I make smoothies with plant based protein powder. My favorite is a green smoothie made with almond milk, seasonal fruits and coconut water. Sometimes I eat apples and bananas when I don’t have a smoothie, and I love vegan health bars. When work is done I have a light lunch. It could be just salad with some protein in it or even a bowl of soup.
Dinnertime is the biggest meal of the day. I always eat a full meal no matter how late. A typical meal is rice with some kind of protein and soup, pasta with salad, and when I have time some sort of appetizer and glass of wine.
I cook pretty much every day. Sometimes I don’t come home until 10pm but I still cook. I do grocery shopping on Sunday night or Monday afternoon and I do food prep on Monday, which is the Company’s day off. I love cooking and I can’t eat food that isn’t good quality. It is my lifestyle now to cook and feed my love ones quality, healthy food.
Check back next month when I will talk about what is going on behind the scenes at the studio everyday as we prepare for the upcoming performances of The Nutcracker.