As far as cultures go, Israel and Japan couldn’t be much farther apart. Israel’s rambunctious, volatile and passionate energy is completely unlike the demure refinement of Japan. That is why, after spending more than a decade in the Middle East, Japanese choreographer Mami Shimazaki can feel a marked change in herself every time she goes back to visit her parents.
“When I go to Japan,” she says, “I’m amused to see the reaction to my Israeli-like behavior, such as speaking fast and loud and walking slow.”
Next week, Shimazaki will take part in a new initiative of the Suzanne Dellal Center entitled Dance with Japan. Over the course of the week, a number of artists, both Japanese and Israeli, will present work inspired by the two cultures.
Before Shimazaki could locate Israel on a map, she knew that she wanted to live here.
“When I was 17, I studied at Maurice Bejart’s school in Switzerland. It was there that I first heard about the Batsheva Dance Company and Ohad Naharin. A couple of years later I had the chance to see Naharin’s works Black Milk and Axioma performed by the Grand Ballet of Geneva. I was totally shocked and amazed by his talent and marked as a future dream to dance in his company,” she recounts.
Not long after that, Shimazaki was invited to participate in a small audition for the Batsheva Ensemble. Seeing her dream realized meant moving from Europe to Tel Aviv, a relocation that would turn out to be more permanent than she had anticipated. From the Batsheva Ensemble, Shimazaki was promoted to the main company, where she was a featured performer for many years.
Outside of her work, Shimazaki found love and became a mother in Israel. She currently works as a teacher at the Democratic School in Tel Aviv, a job that she feels influences her choreography.
“Before I came here, I imagined Israel as a desert country with camels and people wearing kafias,” she laughs. “But that was a wrong image, and I was impressed by the mixture of Mediterranean and modern culture. People in the city were so friendly. I was surprised by how everyone has strong opinions about everything and love to speak their minds and how you can say ‘No,’ which is not common in Japan.”
On Thursday night, Shimazaki will present a new solo, Wind, in a program called Five Houses.
Joining her in the evening will be Asami Ida with the solo Arche; Home by Hila Laiser Beja, Yuko Imazaike and Ari Pastman; mm by Rio Takenoshita and Sao Matsua; and Atom by Oded Zadok and Kazuyo Shionoira.
In Wind, Shimazaki found a way to bring together the different pieces of herself.
“My work went through many changes in style. I used to be attracted to minimal movement and music; however, my recent works became very colorful, with dramatic songs and pop music.
My solo Loop People was a very Japanese work, and my trio Flood was Israeli. I would say that Wind has both sides,” she says.
The Dance with Japan event will also include two evenings featuring up-and-coming artists who live and work in Japan. The first evening will feature Les Noces by On Yamada and Samon by Norihito Ishi. The second evening will showcase the most recent winners of the annual Yohohama Dance Competition. In addition, an evening entitled Four Sonnets will present four collaborations between Japanese and Israeli artists. The program will include Sonnet in Four Movements by Shlomi Frige; Soy Judah by Ella Rothschild and Mirai Moriyama; Las Meninas by Tomo Sone; and Salt by Shani Ben-Haim and Takanori Kawaharada.
Dance with Japan will take place from September 7 to 11 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv.
For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il.