Crossposted from Haaretz
“My Israeli identity has become stronger recently,” says Mami Shimazaki, the Japanese dancer and choreographer whose new work “Flood” premieres August 10 at the Summer Dance Festival at Tel Aviv’s Suzanne Dellal Center. “I talk more, make more noise, laugh more. [I’m] more lighthearted,” she continues in polished Hebrew. “But somehow when I work, I create serious, very Japanese things. This time I wanted to expose my Israeli identity in my work as well,” she says, explaining the background to “Flood.”
Shimazaki — whose name means “the beauty of linen” in Japanese — has been living in Israel for 14 years. Born in Tokyo in 1975, she started studying ballet at age three. At 16, she moved to Switzerland and studied at Maurice Bejart’s Rudra dance school in Lausanne. After finishing her studies, she danced with several troupes and projects in Europe and Japan, but failed to find a leading company willing to take her into its ranks. At the end of the 1990s, after meeting Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin in Holland, she came to Israel and joined the Batsheva Ensemble.
“I was in shock at how normal everything looked,” she says, recalling her first visit to a Middle Eastern country. “I imagined a desert, camels and people wearing kaffiyehs.” After a year with the ensemble, she was promoted to the Batsheva Dance Company, in which she danced until 2009 (with a break of a year in which she gave birth to her daughter). She also danced with the Klipa Theater and in a project abroad. Over the years Israel has become her home, and she lives today with her daughter in Tel Aviv, working as a dance and classroom teacher at the Democratic School in Kfar Sava.