People who make Monaco: Mimoza Koike
Born in 1982 in Tokyo, Japan, Mimoza Koike studied at the Conservatoire National Superieure of Music and Dance in Lyon, where she was introduced to the choreography of Balanchine and Nureyev. From 2001 to 2003, Mimoza danced an extensive repertoire with the Ballet du Grand Théâtre of Geneva, before moving to Monaco to join the Ballets de Monte Carlo under Jean-Christophe Maillot.
You were born in Japan, a country with a great dance tradition of its own - I'm thinking specifically of Kabuki. As a dancer, how influential has that culture been?
I always go see Kabuki theatre every year, each time I am in Japan. As a professional dancer in European dance groups - including the Ballets de Monte Carlo - it's very important for me when I think of bringing life to my own characters. Central to Kabuki is attention to detail, whether in terms of eye movement, the direction of a particular look, hand movement, or pauses. These essentials from my own culture I try to integrate to my European dance environment, in order to find my inner self.
You currently dance with the Ballets de Monte Carlo, which grew out of Monaco's association with Serge Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes. How important would you say is the legacy of Diaghilev to modern dance? Is his spirit still alive in Nice and Monaco?
Two years ago, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Monaco, and had a chance to study the history of the company and its spirit once again. As part of that season I took on a role in a new arrangement of Stravinsky's opera 'Rossignol' (The Nightingale), and was able to build something of the original, historical spirit of the piece into the new arrangement. It was such a meaningful experience for me - nothing I learned at school prepared me for it! And that spirit is still alive with us through the work of Jean-Christophe Maillot. Another legacy of Diaghilev is collaboration with artists: just as he collaborated with Picasso, so now I appreciate the many projects we undertake in co-operation with various artists.
You've danced many principal roles in Monte Carlo, among them the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, Titania in Jean-Christophe Maillot's re-worked Midsummer Night's Dream, and the Queen in his version of Swan Lake. Of all your roles, which has been the most ambitious or technically difficult one, and which have you enjoyed the most?
It is so difficult to answer - each role is so different, but I suppose I love acting especially those characters which are dissimilar to me. For example my first main role was as Margarita in Faust. She's a very shy person - not like me at all! If I had to choose a role, maybe Cinderella, but in the end, I can't really choose one over another.
Tell us about your recent projects: '2 pieces +2', and your work with 'Logoscope'. What are you working on at the moment?
I created '2 pieces+2' with one other choreographer from Monaco and two choreographers from Berlin, and we performed in both cities - it was a great pleasure to partake in that and show them my work. 'Logoscope' is a very special project with Agnès Roux, who I have always admired as an artist. I love participating in art projects like this - they really stimulate the spirit. Recently, I've also been working with young scenography students at the Ecole Supérieure d'Arts Plastiques in Monaco's Pavillon Bosio (it's the fourth such project between the Ballets de Monte Carlo and this school); and every year I teach kids at a variety of Japanese dance schools. I enjoy the opportunity to support the future of young people and I'd like to do more of this kind of work. It's always helpful for me to expand my horizons!
I have never looked myself as a choreographer, but it's an important part of my own professional growth as a dancer. As far as my own choreography goes, I'm very influenced by the culture of the cities I travel to. Every time I go somewhere new, I tend to make a video with other dancers or friends performing in front of a typical location.
Finally, how would you rate the current popularity and public contribution of dance and related multimedia as a means of expression, both in Monaco and worldwide? What is the best way for people to get involved as viewers or performers?
It is difficult to say, being on the inside. But I think it's important to develop a wider audience. Ballet and dance tend to attract only a limited part of a population. I hope we can expand the type of audiences who come to see us dance. Specifically with Jean-Christophe Maillot I am engaged with modern dance, and I believe that we have a lot more room to develop the popularity of this dance form for different generations.
Credits: Annette Anderson at Stars'n'Bars; Guillaume at SBM and the staff of Buddah Bar; Ricky Atlan at Toys Mania Monaco;Hair by Mimoza; Make-Up by Noriko
Interview by Alex Went and Noriko Bonafede; photos by Naneen Rossi