my 20 odd (quite odd) years of dancing and involvement
in the dance community
in New England, mostly Vermont (Etna, Norwich, Thetford, to
Northern Spy etc.)
Well, well, well... nice to hear what's emerged from our local dance series long
I've no experience teaching dances in Japan, but:
a) I've taught dances in Denmark (good number of English speakers), in the Czech
Republic (some English speakers nut fewer), and to kids in Bratislava, Slovak
Republic (virtually no English speakers)
b) I know several ofther folks who have taught dance in Japan
Bottom line: I don't foresee many problems.
As a Czech dance teacher told me, based on lots of experience working with
Japanese dancers who come to Prague to learn traditional Czech dance (which does
involve physical contact) and who has taught in Japan as well, "Japanese are the
dancers and students in the world and it is a pleasure to work with them. They
can repeat almost everything and are very orderly."
Ahmet Luleci, who travels internationally teaching Turkish dance, tells the
story of the time he was teaching to a group of several hundred in Japan. In the
middle of a complicated dance, his translator had to leave the room, so Ahmet
continued on his own. Suddenly, he noticed that that his shoelace was untied. He
bent down to tie his shoe, and upon rising, also wiped some sweat from his
forehead. He looked around the room and saw several hundred people bent over
shoelaces and/or wiping their foreheads, copying his every move.
Lessons (most reiterating what others have said, for emphasis):
1a) Keep your dances simple. The idea is to give them a taste of American style
dancing, with American music.
1b) Simple dances can be taught more quickly, which increases the amount of time
spent dancing to music and minimizes the time spent listening to translated
2) You can get through the event just fine without calling any bonafide contras.
(see note below)
3) Show more than you speak. A clear demonstration will let people learn all
kinds of movement without language. I taught Rod's Quad #2 to a group in Prague
a few years ago-- it's a complex double quadrille-- and once one group got it
and was able to demonstrate it, the hall of 200+ dancers was able to replicate
4) Use English words for figures. If, as you hope, this may turn into something
that continues, people might as well learn the vocabulary. It's possible to call
dances in Denmark-- home of the world's most thriving contra and traditional
square dance community-- to folks who cannot speak English but who do know the
names of twenty or thirty basic figures. Why? Because thirty years ago, when she
was getting this scene started, Margot Gunzenhauser decided that she would make
sure that figures are called in English. This means that American and English
callers can visit often-- and they do-- and that Danish dancers can dance
contras and squares elsewhere with pleasure, using a shared vocabulary.
5) Pick great music!
Let us all know how it turns out.
P.S. If you really want to call a contra, I'd recommend this one.
Family Contra (Sherry Nevins)
duple minor-- don't worry about gender, proper or improper
A1 Balance ring 2x, circle left 1x
("Go IN... and OUT... and IN... and OUT)
A2 Balance ring 2x, circle right 1x
B1 DSD with neighbor, DSD with partner
B2 Facing other couple and with inside hands joined with partner, DSD 1.5 as a
couple to progress