The Newsroom Blog

Jake Mangakahia Reflects on His Past Year on World Ballet Day With World Balllet Day coming up this week (Tuesday, 4th October), tell us what your last year has been like.


Jake: A year ago I was still serving my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Toronto, Canada, so I really wasn't dancing. I had the privilege of doing a couple of pirouettes and double tours in front of a beautiful Church building which were posted on YouTube on World Ballet Day, a small way to connect both worlds and people. While on my mission, I was totally focused. Ballet, which I loved and had been doing for l8 years prior to my mission, wasn't a top priority for me at that time. 

So much has happened for you in the past year. You were a member of the Australian Ballet for three years before your mission and left with the understanding that you would be able to audition to get back in after you returned. Tell us what it was like to prepare for that audition.

Jake: It was an interesting process, all that happened! I came home in November and had just six weeks to prepare for the audition, which would take place in December at the Sydney Opera House. I had worked out for only half an hour a day weekdays and an hour on Mondays during my mission, so I had a lot to do to get ready. Praying for support, taking things step by step and staying very focused on my goal, I was able to get back in shape and audition successfully to be readmitted to my dream job--a dancer in The Australian Ballet.

I see that five top ballet companies around the world are participating in World Ballet Day this year. Tell us how this came about and what your relationship to these companies has been.

World Ballet Day was started three years ago by the Australian Ballet with the aim of sharing the beauty and power of ballet with the world; also the training, talent, and athletic prowess required to be a professional ballet dancer. This year's participating ballet companies are The Australian Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Royal Ballet in London, The National Ballet of Canada in Toronto, and the San Francisco Ballet. The live-streaming will start 4th October at 1 pm AEDT beginning with the Australian Ballet in Melbourne and move around the world in geographical order for the next twenty hours.

Interestingly, I have been in three of these five cities in the past year: Toronto, where I served my mission; Melbourne, of course; and London, where the Australian Ballet rehearsed in Covent Garden and performed Swan Lake at the London Coliseum this past July. It was a great experience to dance in these iconic venues.

It was also great to go to church in London and Toronto. The people in the Church in these cities are really involved in and aware of the arts. It's so interesting to talk to them, to get to know them—their life experiences—and to hear their testimonies. They are from so many different walks of life— and you can feel that the gospel is very much a part of what they do, whether they are studying or working--that a belief in Christ develops and directs their passions for good. 

So, what Ballets have you performed in this past year?

We started in Brisbane with Ratmansky's Cinderella. It was crazy because I left the Australian Ballet doing this same production, so I had to pinch myself and say, 'Was my mission just a good dream?' In Sydney and Melbourne I danced Swan Lake, and then the Graham Murphy version in London. He is an Australian choreographer whose Swan Lake is a world-renowned masterpiece, so it was good to showcase Australian talent.

The highlight of the year has to be performing the lead in Nijinsky last month. Ironically, I remember looking at a billboard in Toronto advertising Nijinksy exactly a year ago September. I never dreamed then that I would be chosen by the choreographer, John Neumeier, Director of the Hamburg Ballet, to be one of three for a principal role in that production in Australia a year later. It felt like I was in the right place at the right time.

Tell us about the ballet.


It tells the life of Vaslav Nijinsky, a dancer in the Ballet Russes, judged by many to have been the greatest male dancer of the early 20th century, the artist who forever altered expectations of what a male ballet dancer could be. His life descended into tragedy when he was diagnosed as schizophrenic at the age of 29. Nijinsky connotes greatness, but also a meteoric rise cut tragically short.

How does the Church help you deal with the dark aspects of this ballet?

There were many scenes that made me think how devastated I would feel without the reassurances of the gospel. The scene where his mother almost leaves his memory due to his illness—I thought of my own mother and how painful it would be if I believed I would never see her again if she should die. Knowing that families can be eternal and that all wrongs will be made right in the next life brings such comfort and peace.

What is the next year looking like for you?

Well, I am scheduled to dance the lead in Nijinsky at the Sydney Opera House in November, some soloist characters in the ballet Coppelia, and then there is the 2017 Season coming up. We'll be doing Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and contemporary triple bill Faster. I'm looking forward to an outstanding year with the ballet. My ultimate goal is to share the gospel through my art, wherever and whenever I can. 


 Jake with his grandparents, brother and parents after his Nijinski performance.

Nijinski performance photo courtesy of Kate Longely.

Browse the Blog

About The Blog: This blog is managed and written by staff of the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The information here is reliable and accurate but should not necessarily be viewed as official statements from the Church. The purpose of this blog is to provide journalists, bloggers, and the public with additional context and information regarding public issues involving the Church. For official news releases and statements from the Church, visit

Style Guide Note: When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.