How They Met: Fate brought these National Ballet dancers together

Hailing from Boston and Tokyo, on opposite sides of the world, it was fate that Brenna Flaherty and Kota Sato met in Toronto as professional dancers in the National Ballet of Canada. Now, the soloists will have the chance to demonstrate their synchronicity in not only love but onstage in the upcoming performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, running from March 6 to 17. Here, the couple share the story of how they met and their fairy-tale wedding in Japan.

 How they met

Brenna: We met at work at the National Ballet of Canada in 2016. I was an apprentice with the company, and Kota was on his third year in the company.

Kota: I thought she was the cute new girl.

Brenna: He seemed to be everybody’s friend who didn’t hesitate to introduce himself to the new people and make all the younger people feel comfortable — it’s intimidating coming into a new company but he was a real friendly face.

The first date

Kota: We got very close during the company Christmas party. She was injured during The Nutcracker, so she wasn’t around, but I saw her waiting to check in for the party, and I was right behind her, so I started talking to her. After that, we just sort of hit it off. That was our first date — I asked her to have a drink after the show, and we just kept talking.

Brenna: And we’ve had probably 1,000 dates since!

The courtship

Kota: Our actual second date, we decided to go see a movie, La La Land. It was a late night show, and I didn’t know at the time that she was such a sleepy mouse. So the first movie we saw together, on our second date, she fell asleep! But to me, that was a good sign that she could get comfortable next to me. 

The proposal

Kota: I proposed to her with a surprise on June 12 of 2022. We were doing Swan Lake, and secretly, I was talking to her friends and family, and they all organized a flight into Toronto. I surprised her at the rooftop bar at Broadview Hotel. She thought she was having a girls night and then we were all there. It was a cloudy day all day, and suddenly the sun came out right as I proposed.

Dancing together

Photo by Karolina Kuras

Brenna: During COVID, the company paired us together for a new ballet that was going to be premiering soon. That was our first time working together, and I think any couple who dances together can tell you that it’s not the easiest thing to work with your partner. But when we dance together, it’s always really rewarding when we perform. Getting to share the moments and the eye contact onstage are some of my favourite memories.

The wedding

Brenna: We were married on Jan. 6, 2024, and we got married in Tokyo. It was very special because my immediate family all came to Tokyo, and they got to experience Japan and get to know Kota’s family, which doesn’t happen very often because they’re so far away. We didn’t do a traditional Japanese wedding, but they do have different customs and traditions, and it was the best day of our life. I wouldn’t change one thing.

Shared hobbies and interests

Brenna: We both really love musical theatre, and although we don’t perform because we’re too busy with our ballet careers, we love seeing shows and listening to the music together. And we both love exploring new restaurants in Toronto. We’re both big foodies, which is another huge reason why we’re together. We love all the same sorts of foods — Imanishi is our favourite spot. 

The secret to success

Brenna: We agree on a lot of things, but I think our ability to compromise when we don’t agree is something that we’ve acquired over our seven plus years together.  

The future together

Kota: I’m hoping to build a happy family with a lot of joy and singing and dancing.

Brenna: Maybe one day moving to Japan and exploring Kota’s side of the culture. We’ll see what the world has in store for us; I can’t wait to make the most of our careers together.

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