Meet Billy Elliot: Denis Watanabe

    Note: Denis Watanabe’s final show as Billy in the Japanese production of Billy Elliot the Musical (BETM) was in Osaka on November 14, 2020.

    Debut: September 11, 2020 (Tokyo, Japan)

    Total Performances as Billy to Date:  16 (No partial shows) 

    Denis Watanabe was 12 years old (D.O.B. 14-Oct-2007) when he debuted as Billy in the Japanese production of BETM in Tokyo.  His father is from Belarus, so Denis speaks Russian as well as Japanese.

    As the son of two world-class professional ballet dancers, it’s safe to say that ballet is in Denis’s blood.  He began formal ballet training when he was in the first grade of elementary school.  His father, Aleksandr Buber, and mother, Miki Watanabe, run the Watanabe Buber Ballet Academy, which is where Denis trains.

    Denis has a history of winning numerous ballet competitions.  One of his recent successes was winning a Gold Award in the Junior B category at The World Ballet Trial in Tokyo in 2018.  Here is a video of Denis’s award-winning performance, which shows off his exceptional ballet skills:

    Credit: Video by TWBT Tokyo

    Denis had seen the movie Billy Elliot and so he applied to audition for the role of Billy as he thought that playing Billy would be like the “electricity” he feels when he is dancing.  Initially Denis wasn’t aware that he would be expected to learn other skills besides ballet in order to play Billy.  So at first it was hard to pick up all the new skills such as tap dance and acrobatics.  However, he practised hard because he wanted the role so much and soon he found that he was enjoying the new disciplines.

    Denis Watanabe at a ballet competition

    Denis’s debut performance as Billy on 11-Sep-2020 makes him the 294th young actor worldwide to play the role in a professional, regional or community theatre production of the musical.

    Denis Watanabe is Billy Elliot

    For more information about Denis visit:

    Billy Elliot the Forum


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