Jessie Arnold Photography Blog

I had a ridiculously busy weekend, but it was also a really incredible weekend. After spending 2 days at English camp, exhausted after attempting to be genki for 14 hours a day, all us new ALTs were taken to Tokushima City for the Awa Odori (dance festival). It would guess this is Tokushima’s most famous event, probably it’s most famous ANYTHING, and the city’s population explodes for a few days! The entire city is filled with people dancing everywhere. You can read a little more about it here if you’re interested!

After being given a quick crash course in this style of dancing, we joined a dance group called Awasora Ren. There are over 200 people in this group, so a few extra foreigners making fools of themselves is fairly acceptable. The dance looks deceptively simple, but of course there is an art to it (which we definitely had not acquired in our 10 minutes of dance rehearsal). Luckily there was safety in numbers!

We met this hilariously awesome pair in our hotel — the guy didn’t speak much English, but he was so excited to talk with us, and everything he said came out at full volume! “OKAAAAAY!!” They actually ended up coming out to a bar with us later. Apparently they are med students so look out Osaka, these party animals could be your local GP in a few years!

I wasn’t able to take my camera during the dancing in Tokushima City, but luckily my local Awa Odori festival was held on Sunday and Monday nights so I got to see it all over again on a slightly smaller scale:

This was my favourite group, their grand finale involved whipping their fans open and sending blossoms swirling around the stage! Beautiful to watch. Incidentally, one of my speech contest students is part of this group, and her speech is actually about learning Awa Odori over the years — so being able to watch her perform it was especially interesting.

The traditional female dancers were amazing. They were so incredibly graceful — look at how they balance on the tips of their shoes!

There are two styles of dance, one for men and one for women. The women’s dance is very graceful and the arms are held high above the head, with smaller kicks (because traditionally the women were wearing kimonos) but higher steps. The men’s dance has become more unisex, and it is the usual style that younger women and kids dance — the arms are more in front of the head rather than high above, and the movements are a bit sharper and slightly less smooth. However, sometimes I did see guys break out into these amazing bursts of dance — much more energetic and unrestrained than the usual dance, almost like capoeira. Really cool to watch.

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