Meet the Artist: Shizumi Shigeto Manale

Posted by Washington Revels
November 21, 2019

Imagine you live in a rustic European village nestled somewhere in the mists of time…

Life revolves around agriculture and the seasons, and the Winter Solstice is fast approaching. You and your neighbors hope the harvest will carry you through the shortest, darkest days, and as always, your village prepares to keep the year alive with brightly burning Yule logs, hearty songs, lively dances, and cherished stories.

But this year, something unexpected happens! Three wandering performers arrive, and they are unlike any people who have ever visited before — dressed in bright, strange clothing, atop a colorful wagon, sharing their cultural riches in the form of tales, music and dance that you’ve never seen or heard. Who are these traveling Fools that call themselves the Sun, Moon, and Stars?

Meet Our “Moon” Fool!

Born in Hiroshima and raised in Osaka Japan, Shizumi Shigeto Manale’s numerous artistic endeavors are dedicated to promoting multicultural understanding and acceptance. She is a world-renowned and highly awarded dancer, choreographer, author, director, and film producer. In 1985 she founded Shizumi Dance Theatre and, from 2000-2015, she directed the children’s dance company Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe, which performed for President Clinton at the White House’s Millennium Celebrations. Shizumi also served as the artistic director of the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s opening ceremonies for seven years.

This past October, Shizumi’s documentary film Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard, about the friendship between Hiroshima children and American civilians in the aftermath of the atom bomb, was screened at the United Nations as a special event of the 74th Session of the General Assembly. The film was also shown during President Obama’s 2015 visit to Japan. In 2014 she authored the related English-language book Running with Cosmos Flowers, published by Pelican Publishing Co.

As the “Moon” Fool in this year’s Revels, Shizumi’s training in classical Japanese dance and theater will delight and enthrall — and underlying this onstage magic is her deep commitment to healing global divisions through cultural sharing. We hope this handful of examples drawn from Shizumi’s large body of work gives you a sense of her advocacy for peace and understanding.

Watch the Trailer: Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard

Nikkei Asian Review: “US Museum, Japanese filmmaker tell stories of children who survived Hiroshima bombings”

Shizumi’s creative work is, incredibly, global and local at the same time. An example of this is her book and film about an exchange of gifts between a DC church and a Hiroshima elementary school after WWII. In response to the devastation in Hiroshima, All Souls Church in Washington sent aid to schools and nursing homes in 1947. Using the very school supplies donated by All Souls, students at Honkawa Elementary School made drawings that were given as gifts to the church.

For more context on these events and on the Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard trailer above, we wanted to share this article about a 2015 exhibition of these pictures, the friendship they represent, and the documentary they inspired Shizumi to produce.

Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe

As you’ve seen and read, Shizumi loves to bring people together through shared cultural experiences. And in that same vein, we’re glad that we will have the opportunity come together with her, with fellow tradition bearers Karim Nagi and Mark Novak, and with our onstage village of over 100, ages 9-90, when we gather for our most beloved Christmas Revels production of all time. Join us as we “Welcome Yule!”

See The Christmas Revels: “Celestial Fools”

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