Spanish Dance Company
DBA/CoCo Girls - Las Flamencas Inc. Spanish Dance Theater
Minako Shibata is in the unusual position of being the producer, and a soloist, of the first, and only, flamenco company comprised of Japanese dancers ever to perform in New York. Her story is, of course, also unusual.
Ms. Shibata was a nurse at a hospital in Shinjuku, Tokyo, when she met a patient, Keiko Isshiki, who was being treated for cancer of the large intestine. When Ms. Isshiki learned that Ms. Shibata had been a student of ballet and tap since childhood, she heartily recommended that she begin the study of flamenco. Ms. Shibata studied flamenco at Ms. Isshiki's dance school and soon became proficient enough to perform in shows at Mr. and Ms. Isshiki's Spanish restaurant in Tokyo.
Although Ms. Shibata loved flamenco, she couldn't forget her love for tap dancing. She came to New York the following year to study tap and go to English language school, while continuing her study of flamenco with Liliana Morales. Throughout her stay in New York, she received numerous letters and phone calls from Ms. Isshiki, trying to convince her to come back to Tokyo and "dance flamenco together."
In March of 1993, Ms. Shibata learned that Ms. Isshiki was once again hospitalized. She flew to Tokyo to be with her and learned that Ms. Isshiki, whose cancer had spread, passed a way just at the time she was arriving at Narita Airport in Tokyo.
"I was so shocked. I never knew her condition was that bad." Ms. Shibata recalls. "I was terribly let down for a while. Yet, as I began thinking about Ms. Isshiki, who cared for me so much, I made up my mind to concentrate on flamenco." In 1994, she went to Spain, to study flamenco at its source. Presently she is performing and studying in New York.
During the summer of 1997, Ms. Shibata and three other Japanese women formed a dance company named "CoCo Girls." The name comes from the "co" at the end of the word flamenco and the fact that each girl's name ends with "ko." In October of 1997, they performed at the famed La MaMa ETC in the East Village. The New York Times cited their company twice during its run, resulting in sold-out performances. Arturo Martinez, a famous Spanish guitarist residing in the U.S., performed as a guest artist and has been a trusted advisor ever since.
"Thanks to Ms. Isshiki, I have been able to come this far," says the determined Ms. Shibata. "I would like to continue performing here in New York for her."
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