“Hi!” The commanding opening to the Japanese sea shanty, Soran Bushi, would have startled me out of my seat had I not already witnessed it last year. In the unglamorous classroom the powerful dance was out of place. It was a force of nature in a delicate artificial shell. The beginning sequence of hands dipping and rising to imitate waves was such a stark contrast to the surroundings– like an oasis in the desert. Even without their happi, or Japanese festival jackets, the dancers exuded the spirit of the traditional dance. It was great to be allowed to watch the dance grow and come together as the group continued to practice.
I was there to write an article for the student newspaper, Omega, so this post will have elements of journalistic writing. Seated to the side of the classroom, a stranger to the club and their lone audience, I’m scribbling away taking notes about the meeting’s happenings.
“Remember, though sometimes it may not seem like it, our booth is very popular,” Cheyanne Bradsley warned club members as she went over the schedule. The club held an overview meeting and two dance meetings that night. They’ve been practicing the Soran Bushi their signature contribution to the International Days showcase, for weeks.
“It’s really common for high schools students to learn the dance for school festivals,” said Cheyanne. She first learned the steps to the dance in grade eight and nine when a Japanese exchange student studied at her school.
During the practice she was comparing the version she had learned, with another version from a student originating from a different region of Japan. Comparing snapping jabs at the sky to flying windmill arms, the differences were few but dramatically different when put into motion. As International Days came up during Cheyanne’s first year as Japanese club president she decided to introduce the dance.
“It just kind of stuck and now we’ve been doing it for three years,” she said. Though Cheyanne described the dance as simple, the dancers took breaks to relieve their leg and arm muscles.
“With all the practices, we do get really sore,” said Jenna Banman, vice president and participant in the dance, “it’s really hard on the thighs because the stances are mostly done in lunges.” Suddenly, climbing stairs became a difficult task with her thigh muscles complaining. Jenna is also going to assist in dressing people in traditional kimonos. She learned how to put on the yukata, or causal kimono, from Cheyanne last year when they needed another person to help at the International Days showcase.
“It’s not as complicated as it seems,” she said of tying the bows. She said the more complicated bow is on Cheyanne’s kimono obi, or sash. She’s just learning how to wrap it this year.
I had assumption that the obi and bows could only be prepared by two people, so I was amazed when Jenna told me that the obi can be put on by the wearer and then spun around to place it at the back. She’s been greatly assisted by tutorials on Youtube.Taking a look around I found this amusing video by AshNight1214. Her excited stumbling is part of the charm of the video. I especially love how she describes techniques and drops important interesting points into the lesson.
Some things she mentions that seem important to note: if you fold the front right-over-left it means you’re dead and two, if the bow is in the front it means you are a courtesan because it’s easy to undo.
I really want to stop by the booth and learn how to tie these bows. Aside from their tea expo contribution on Tuesday, the Japanese club will also be hosting a dress-up booth on Student Street in Old Main. With kimonos donated for the event from all across campus, those who want to wear traditional Japanese clothing can visit the booth and have their photo taken by Chad Finlay a member of the club.
“A whole mixture of people on campus let us borrow their traditional clothing,” said Bradsley. Owner of two formal kimonos and a yukata, or casual kimono, she’d bought online, Bradsley will be lending these clothes to the event too. Participants of the event will have their photos emailed to them afterward.
The booth will also have kanji and calligraphy for those too shy for the camera.
On an ending note, Jenna has agreed to allow me to contact her for an interview about her Wa Lolita clothes (more on that in a later post!). She will be wearing a Wa Lolita dress, which is basically a hybrid between the traditional kimono and Lolita, a Japanese subculture based off Victorian age clothing, at the booth. Jenna says there are areas in Japan where girls wear these clothes for parties and get-togethers, not just special events and plays.