Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dance like everyone is watching

A few months ago I received a call from my Board of Education asking if I would like to take traditional Okinawan dance classes with international students from Peru, Argentina and Brazil. I figured that it would be like a once-a-week type of deal so I joined. Instead, dance practice was conducted everyday for two hours in preparation for a performance in front of all the members of the Board of Education. Yikes! For this performance, I learned the Kagiyadefu (woman's part), a very slow but graceful Okinawan dance.

The Kagiyadefu is not a difficult dance when compared to my time as a ballet dancer. However, the pace is slow and sometimes the dance does not follow the rhythm of the music. Moreover, instead of teaching the basic 8 count, I had to listen to the lyrics for cues. Because the dance is a traditional Okinawan dance, the lyrics are also in a traditional Okinawan language, called Unchinaguchi. A lot of those studying Japanese will say "RyūKyū-ben" or RyūKyū dialect, but this is incorrect and you will be firmly corrected in Okinawa because it's considered a completely separate language from Japanese. After several weeks of practice, I perfected the Kagiyadefu. 
I had to make sure I didn't step on the outter kimono while dancing
My dance life in Okinawa has continue Udui Kuwadisa, at my towns cultural festival. Unless it's for a performance, practice is held Wednesday and Thursday at a performance center in Ginoza. What I love about this is the sense of community from the other dancers who I consider my Japanese aunts (although they are old enough to be my grandmothers). On practice days, I usually skip dinner because they always feed me. I've even been surprised a few times with snacks, such as cakes, secretly stuffed into my purse. Most of the women's names end with a "ko," and since I'm become part of their dance horde they affectionately call me "Gabiko" and, when I'm in costume, I'll introduce myself as 「うちなんちゅう我美子」"Unichinanchū Gabiko" (Okinawan person, Gabiko).  

Auntie attempting to contain the mane, while I'm acting silly with this crazy makeup!

Dancers with Sensei

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