Sunday, 14 June 2009

Yosakoi Soran 2009

Yosakoi Soran Carnival is huge. I mean, I had no idea how big - last year I was too busy to see any of it and I was kind of pissed off because people kept saying how it was everywhere, and they couldn't get away from it. Well this year, it was everywhere for me too. Yuki said that someone claimed more people come to see Yosakoi now than come to see the Snow Festival in Sapporo, and I find that pretty hard to believe, since due to the rain, most places seemed fairly sparsely attended. However I can easily believe that more people come to dance in the festival than come to Snow Festival because there were Yosakoi dancers bloody everywhere. And since they've all got to appear at different locations all over the city on some meticulously planned schedule they were always running around in huge groups, like crack teams of extras from Steven Spielberg's Hook.

Oh yeah, I should explain. Yosakoi is a massive kind of contemporary Japanese team dance contest. It's less than twenty years old, and started like the Snow Festival, when a student from Hokkaido University... um... felt like having a team dance thing? Things snowballed and lo and behold 18 years later Tara can sit in Odori Park while separate performances (each with their own deafening sound system) go on in front of her, behind her, and in the streets either side of her.

We saw the Yosakoi Illusion Parade which was a big kind of doss for all the different teams to get together and march in one long line. It was kind of fun, but not all that special as regards... um choreography.

After that we squeezed ourselves behind a tree to get a look at the actual competition stage; I think we were watching the semi-final.

Yosakoi is kind of Japanese dance, but with lots of contemporary elements. The only requirements are that you have the little hand shaker things, and that your music incorporates elements of Soran - Hokkaido fishermen's songs. That literally just means shouting "SORAN" every now and then. Every team has someone on the mic to either sing, or mostly just shout things like "Here we go!" and "Ha!" The college team pictured above had a girl with a voice like cheese-wire - it was painful. Another team featured a phenomenal singer, and two MCs who were wasted on the lumpen dancers.

On Sunday we went over to Olivia's place because one of the MANY parades goes right past her window.

It was pissing it down, so turnout was minimal, but the dancers still gave it a hundred and twenty percent. I especially liked the teams who featured a burly flag bearer at the rear:

The winners this year were Hiragishi Tenjin, from Sapporo. They're one of the two best teams who dominate the competition every year (or so I'm told, I also found a video of them dancing in Thailand to launch the first Bangkok Yosakoi Soran, and I think I heard the core team work as backing dancers for J-Pop people sometimes). While a lot of teams are doing it for fun, you've gotta audition to get into the big teams and they have corporate sponsorship to put on a great show and hire professional choreographers. And, as might be expected, they're head and shoulders above everyone else. Here's the final ceremony and their performance:

Yeah, that's pretty good. Both years I've been in Sapporo now though, Yosakoi's been a really wet event - lots of rain. Let's hope it's a sunny spell next year.

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