She Thinks She Can Dance

By Rebecca Spence

Published May 18, 2007, issue of May 18, 2007.
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Just six years ago, when Hanna-Lee Sakakibara plunged through the floor of a Jerusalem wedding hall in an infamous disaster that left 23 Israelis dead, it was unclear whether she would ever pirouette again. But next week she will become the first Israeli to appear on the Fox reality show “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Born in Jerusalem to a Japanese father and an Australian mother, Sakakibara was only 16 when the floor of the Versailles wedding hall, where she was working as a dancer, suddenly collapsed. A fellow dancer found Sakakibara, her legs pinned under rubble and her face shattered. Lying in a hospital bed, with metal plates in her face, the Christian Israeli dancer asked for divine intervention. “I just prayed as I lay in that bed,: ‘If you let me get out of this, God, I will pursue dance until the end.’”

She survived and, ever since, has been living up to her end of the bargain.

After high school, Sakakibara moved to New York, where she studied at the famed Alvin Ailey school. Now 22 and done with her studies, Sakakibara is pursuing her professional dance career. She calls the second round of auditions for “So You Think You Can Dance” the most grueling of her life. During the first round of auditions, which were held May 1 in New York, Sakakibara said she was so nervous that she forgot her choreographed moves when it was her to turn to perform.

“I started dancing like a maniac. I can’t remember anything I did.”

But apparently the show’s producers liked what they saw. They were so taken with her moves — and her triumphant story — that they are also set to air a special May 24 segment on the Israeli dancer.


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