Yosakoi Dance and Akari
I would say that my first encounter with Yosakoi
dance was when I was in my mother’s womb. My mother felt me actively moving whenever she heard the festival music. Yosakoi dance is an annual dance festival in my hometown, Kochi. (Please read “About Izanai Yosakoi
” for more information.) As a child, I remember feeling of joy-filled excitement as soon as I heard the festival music, and I could not keep myself from dancing to the music.
At age 7, my family moved to Tokyo for my father’s job, so I was away from dancing Yosakoi until I moved back to Kochi at age 15. That’s when I met my Yosakoi teacher, the late Suga Kunitomo
who was running the Suga Jazz Dance Studio in Kochi at that time. She had trained several high-caliber dance instructors, and I had the blessing of receiving their daily instruction.
Suga was a busy lady. She traveled all over Japan to choreograph for Yosakoi teams and to help people start up new festivals in their cities, towns, or villages. Yosakoi dance was a great tool
for communities to bring people together and build positive energy.
Due to her work, her students had opportunities to travel around Japan and perform Yosakoi dance
. I remember getting on a charter bus late at night, sleeping on the bus, arriving the next morning, performing during the day, and coming home or departing to the next destination that night. Summer was a busy time. Sometimes, I was away from home for several days in a row.
Additionally, we had a theater
where we performed nightly for tourists and also had corporate gigs
(performing at high-end hotels where business conventions were held). I remember bringing the whole costume and a make-up kit to school and rushing to a hotel after school, and quickly changing into costumes and putting on make-up. I was a high school student, so schooling was a priority, but I danced as much as I could.
I am very grateful that Suga gave me these opportunities. From her and her senior students, I have learned not only what it means to be professional, but also the pure pleasure of sharing joy through dance