Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Well, it seems I couldn't even make it a month into this "revival" of my blog without lapsing into nearly two weeks of no updates. For a guy without a job, I certainly manage to keep myself busy. Since his retirement 21 years ago, my grandfather loves to say that he doesn't know how he ever had time to work. I think I know what he means.

Two weekends ago, June 9-10, was the 16th annual Yosakoi Soran festival in Sapporo. Last year, both Maureen and I watched it and loved it. She loved it so much, in fact, that she decided to join a local team in Muroran and perform this year. Since the end of last summer, she has met with the 40 or so other members of Muroran Renaissance almost every Thursday evening for two hours of practice. For the two months leading up to the festival, she has also practiced with them for another two hours on Monday evenings, and for marathon 7-1/2 hour sessions on Sundays.

Each team creates and learns one dance, about four minutes in length, which they perform several times over the course of the festival. Maureen's team performed a total of 12 times on Saturday at six different venues, and 5 times on Sunday at three venues. Some of the locations are stages, while others are parades on closed-off streets. Different dance formations are required for both formats.

In their division, Maureen's team qualified as "semi-finalists." That's something like "honorable mention," since they don't actually compete in any semi-finals. That was the team's goal this year, so everyone was quite pleased. One of Maureen's students is a member of a team in a nearby city, which also qualified for the semifinals. Their team had practiced almost every evening. At school the next week, the student told Maureen, "I'm so disappointed. We spent all that time and didn't even win."

Of course, there are about 300 teams, and only one of them can win. This year's winning team came from Shin Kotoni, a suburb of Sapporo, and was in fact the same team that won last year.

For my part, I don't like to think of Yosakoi as a competition. "Festival" seems like a much better term. Yosakoi is special to me because it's a beautiful display of movement, color, and coordination. Nearly every team performs at a very high level, and almost all are made up of amateurs, practicing after work and on the weekends simply for their love of dance. They come from all over Hokkaido, Japan, and even the world, to perform, and the spectators come from just as far and wide to watch them. The crowds are big at every one of the dozens of venues, and everyone watches with rapt attention and respectful silence...until bursting into applause with the final note. If we need to have a winner and losers for that kind of spetacle, I'm willing to accept it. But sometimes it's a pretext I wish we could transcend, and simply perform for the love of the dance.


Nicolas said...

Cool picture of Maureen!

anyram said...

Hey Scott! Glad to see you're posting here again. Look forward to catching up in Furano -- have a great trip to Shiretoko! It's amazing, even if you don't get too far off the beaten path.

Meredith said...

tell mo she looks so pretty for me!!!!

love, mere :) :) :)

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