DANCE DANCE ASIA: Crossing the Movements

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I remember when I used to dance back in high school, it was one of those things I really love to do then. I haven’t been dancing since high school but I would still like to do it, but it’ll take awhile to get used to again. I don’t really consider myself to be that of a really good dancer, I have a friend who was also a member of the school’s dance troupe who’s a better dancer. She’s one of those popular ones when one mentions the subject of the dance troupe.

In the same manner to dancing, I like to attend events; I mean free events like this one from the Japan Foundation Manila. It’s the first-ever cultural exchange project by street dancers in Asia spearheaded by JFM’s new special unit Asia Center and Dance Dance Asia.

I found myself really active for the past two years or so attending events by the Japan Foundation, since I got into my previous job as an associate editor/writer for a community newspaper for Filipino communities in Japan. I specifically like it when it’s July, as it’s the month when they hold the Japan-Philippines Friendship month; so they hold more events during this month such as the Eiga Sai and the toy exhibit.

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I initially wanted to attend this event with two of my college friends, unfortunately one of them couldn’t decide. Eventually, I invited JC, who’s two of my friends’ younger sibling and happens to share the same educational degree as mine. I guess that’s one thing that makes us blend well.

It was my first time ever seeing a full dance show and so was he, so it makes the experience a lot more momentous for both of us. I’ve been to K-pop concerts with singing and dancing performed at the same time, so I’m quite exposed to how K-pop concerts go. I have yet to attend concerts of vocal artists like 4Men, Brown Eyed Soul, Urban Zakapa or LYn. It would be really such an experience to see them live. And like I said this was the first dance show ever for me, so I was really excited. I have to praise myself for deciding to go.

Part of the thrill for this was I didn’t know any of the performers, apart from they were Japanese dancers. That feeling that I didn’t know what to expect added to the total experience I had. It featured three amazing dancing groups of different genres:  TAPDANCERIZE,TOKYO GEGEGAY and s**t kingz.

The members of TAPDANCERIZE

The members of TAPDANCERIZE during the closing greetings: Satomi Toma, Jun’ichi Sunayama (bass), Gunjo, Takeru Yamazaki (piano), Shinsuke Sada and Yuji Uragami.

The first group performer was TAPDANCERIZE, composed of three dancers: Yuji Uragami (Leader) | Gunjo | Satomi Toma and musicians: Shinsuke Sada (Gt) | Takeru Yamazaki (Key) | Yozo (Sax) | Jun’ichi Sunayama (Bass). The group is a dance percussion group with stimulating steps.

I was totally impressed with them being the opening act. It was another first to see a real tap dance performance live, so I just couldn’t help but be amazed with their combination of tap plus jazz dance, break dance, soul dance and ballet; and accompanied by live music of sax, bass, guitar and piano. I really admire the smooth harmony with their performances, specially with different dance genres combined. Aside from the tap sounds from their shoes, I’m simply blown away how it blends so naturally with the live music. The tap sounds aren’t just simple sounds, they come with a melody and different movements create different sounds.

And just the fact that they explored rhythm-tap dance style that’s originally from black folk culture is already a feat. Tap dancing is the finer kind from the three performers, as it’s more intricate – something like ballet that focuses heavily on the strength, agility and movement of the legs than the upper body. I consider it an unconventional choice of dance genre for professional dancers.

And according to my research, two major variations of tap dancing are Broadway tap that is widely performed in musical theater and focuses on dance, and rhythm (jazz) tap that focuses on musicality and considered as part of the Jazz tradition. In dance, musicality is the matching of movement and form to the rhythm, melody, and mood of the music being played. Like I said, it’s the finer kind, the one that belongs to an elegant category as it’s predominantly used in musical theater. For TAPDANCERIZE, they performed both variations in defining ways and had the audience experience both a musical theater and a jazz performance.

JC and me with Yuji Uragami and with Gunjo (top right)

JC and me with Yuji Uragami and with Gunjo (top right)

My favorite performer’s got to be Gunjo, who I was able to take a photo with after the show. He’s got this natural humoristic persona on stage while performing, although it wasn’t just him but also Yuji; whereas the only girl from the group was the most expressive one. And they’re really interactive with the audience as well. In regular concerts, artists usually interact with the audience when they take breaks from the performances; but with them they have incorporated that unique and humorous style of interacting with the audience while dancing. I think that takes an uncommon talent.

The group’s website is http://uragamiyuji.com/. They perform in live music clubs, on film, TV commercials, and are active in many other scenes.

The members of TOKYO GEGEGAY

TOKYO GEGEGAY members: Yuyu, Bow, Marie, Miku and MIKEY (in no chronological order)

TOKYO GEGEGAY is lead by MIKEY, who has worked as both a choreographer and back-up dancer for Miliyah Kato, BoA, Crystal Kay and MISIA to name a few. According to their profile, the group was formed to participate at the 5th season of Dance@Hero, a dance contest in Japan in which they took the title.

The group’s set of performances is something I’d consider the closest to the predominant dance style in K-pop, but they’re definitely more creative. Well, that doesn’t come as a surprise when one of them has actually worked as a choreographer for someone like BoA. Their performances were like watching a real and live music video, without the fluff of CG effects and other embellishments. It’s of that quality, although without the singing of course. Their choreography and the execution is something I’ve never seen in K-pop, which is really becoming generic by the days with idol groups coming out with dancing songs one after the other, that I couldn’t distinguish who’s who anymore.

Photos during the closing greetings

Photos during the closing greetings

Their set-up was at a classroom with MIKEY as the teacher and the other four as students while they learn English, science, math, arts and home economics. Each performance’ theme is based on each subject, except for the last one. I particularly like best the science dance. The science performance was like watching straight out of a film, with two of them wearing gas masks and lab clothes – the one scientists wear to protect themselves and then breaking into a dance sequence. It evoked this freak out feeling with the smoke as if they’re going into a place like the Fukushima Nuclear Plant.

Another would be the arts dance. They came out clad in silky long black skirts that are attached to all five of them. It looked like a long elegant table clothed wrapped to their waists. Some of them were standing on chairs, arranged in an elevated way to form a triangle. And then there’s the four members’ heads covered with black handbags. It was kinda creepy, in a good way creepy but creative and cool. The performance had this goth appeal to it.

But among their performance, I have to say I love it best when they danced to Utada Hikaru’s Goodbye Happiness. I totally flipped when I heard it, but it looked like I was the only person who actually know the song from the audience. And there’s always a favorite member for me, it’s the second girl from the right. She’s so bubbly, cute and perky.

The group’s website: http://tokyogegegay.com/

The members of s**t kingz: Shoji, Kazuki, NOPPO and Oguri (in no chronological order)

The members of s**t kingz: Noppo,Oguri, Shoji and Kazuki (in no chronological order)

s**t kingz was formed on October 2007 and was the winner of the dance contest Body Rock in California for two years in a row. They’ve worked as both choreographers and back-up dancers for artists such as Daichi Miura, Mariah Carey, SHINee and EXO among others. They also hold dance workshop tour.

Just like TAPDANCERIZE, I consider s**t kingz’ style more of the street dance kind than that of TOKYO GEGEGAY. They danced with chairs for their first performance, wearing simple white long sleeve shirts and chino pants. And right that moment, I was mesmerized. I always love a choreography that involves the use of chairs, I guess ever since Shinhwa’s chair dance with Wild Eyes. I have to say the song really got me too, unfortunately I don’t know the title of the song. ( I’m hoping JC could get the set list from JFM or we’ll just try to ask the group directly).

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What I like about them best is that watching them perform feels like watching a stage musical. They don’t need flamboyant props or costumes, but they get through you with their flawless interpretation of the songs through their movements. They’re telling you their version of the songs’ story and it just adds to the total atmosphere of the performances, as well as my reaction to the message of the song. It’s just like when a singer has to interpret a song in her own way, but I think dancing gives a different kind of feeling to the audience and how it affects your impression of a song; especially because you’re watching it and not listening to it. In this case, dancing is more expressive than singing.

For the group performances, I specifically love when they danced to Bruno Mars’ Locked Out of Heaven. Watching it made me feel like wanting to learn the choreography myself. It makes you really want to move and dance along. I particularly like the moves that perfectly capture the climactic part of the song. There were some funny moments too, as when the chorus hits, they had this funny expressions while they’re singing along to the song. I couldn’t help but laugh. NOPPO, the tallest one was the funniest from the very start, from their first performance.

Here’s a video of them performing the same set, since video/photo taking during the show weren’t allowed.

My favorite solo performances were from the second guy from the right who danced to Michael Jackson’s Leave Me Alone and the guy first from right, with the mic, who performed to Justin Timberlake’s Strawberry Bubblegum; the guy’s super and he effortlessly brings out the JT charm with his own dance moves.

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Thank you from the wonderful performers

Honorable mention would be Oguri’s performance to Ms. Seductive by Jeff Bernat. I have the group to thank, specifically him for introducing me to this beautiful song. And this is such an expressive song and I was able to see how he’s really feeling the song, like he’s the guy in the song who fell for this girl but couldn’t find a way to do something with the butterflies she gives him. He could be a wonderful actor.

The group’s website is http://shitkingz.jp/

Among the three groups, I like TAPDANCERIZE and s**t kingz best, I did enjoy TOKYO GEGEGAY a lot as well.

We really enjoyed (2) hours of purely breathtaking, awesome, one of a kind, high-class showcase of great dancing talent of the Japanese. It was a great show of sensational dance performances of different genres.

Thank you JFM and Dance Dance Asia!

Check out JFM and Dance Dance Asia to know more about JFM’s programs and Dance Dance Asia tour.

Some videos during the closing greetings. They taught us some dance moves as we danced along to them to the music of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk.

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DANCE DANCE ASIA: Crossing the Movements is a project of The Japan Foundation Manila – Asia Center to support the exchange and collaboration of Asian regional dance companies/dancers that are based on street dance, including not only hip-hop but a variety of genres such as jazz dance and contemporary dance.

The Manila 2-day event is the introductory performance and the first-ever cultural exchange project by street dancers in Asia. It features three amazing dance groups from Japan: TAPDANCERIZE,TOKYO GEGEGAY and s**t kingz. Held at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati, Ph.

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So there goes a wonderful night, and ends with a cup of Raspberry Truffle Mocha.

So there goes a wonderful night, and ends with a cup of Raspberry Truffle Mocha.