Friday, November 7, 2008

A dancer I am not...

...but I feel that I at least carried myself credibly at the Towada Culture Festival this past Sunday (November 2nd).

Even though my (Japanese) dance performance lasted only 8 minutes, I spent pretty much the whole day at the Towada Bunka (Culture) Center in preparation. I arrived a little before 10:30am to get my hair done by a mother of one of the elementary students performing. It took 1.5 hrs, 2 elastics, 5 small rubber bands, 1 U-pin, 55 bobby pins and a lot of hairspray/mousse to get my hair done up properly for Japanese dance.

Then I had to get my make-up done (they whitened my face, neck, and arms). After the make-up, I had a short time to eat a bit (they ordered trays of maki rolls, mini croissants, fried chicken, etc. for everyone) before we all had to put on our rental kimonos.

I really learned from this experience how amazing and tireless Japanese mothers (okaasan) are. For the weeks leading up to the festival, the mothers were always at our rehearsals, often working on things (hair ornaments for the kids, flower bunches for their dance, etc.) for the performance.

The Saturday before the performance, the okaasan who was going to do my hair did a practice run that took an hour to do! Then, of course, she tirelessly worked on my hair for an hour and a half on the day of (she couldn't get it to stay the way she hoped/wanted it to, so she ended up changing the style a little from the practice run--hence the extra half an hour). While she was working on my hair, the other mothers were helping the kids get their make-up on and doing their hair. They set up and distributed all the food. They helped all the children get into their kimonos, etc. and made sure they were ready and in their proper places for their curtain calls. And of course they helped with the clean-up. Really, they were amazing and I only wish I could've expressed my admiration to them more fully on the day of!!

But back to my preparations...

There were seven of us wearing the rental kimonos, and it took about 20-30 minutes to put on each kimono, so we had to around 1pm to make our 3:45pm curtain call. Since my sensei (very thoughtfully) wanted me to be able to take pictures/have pictures taken of me in the kimono, Maki (my dance partner and I) were the first ones dressed.

Once I had the kimono on and was finished taking photos, it was just a matter of sitting around and waiting for our curtain call. Maki and I practiced a little, but we got a little hot/flushed, so we figured it was best to just sit and wait patiently.

When the time came for us to go on, I was super nervous. I was so nervous, I actually felt slightly nauseated; I always used to get that feeling before major tests/exams during high school and university, or before doing any sort of public speaking/performance, but it had been a long time since I’d last felt so nervous. Still, when the music started and we made our entrance, I slapped on a smile and tried to stay focused.

Luckily it was really dark in the theatre and the spotlights were really bright, so even if I’d wanted to look for familiar faces in the audience, I probably wouldn’t have been able to spot any. It wasn’t my best performance (I think that happened at our final rehearsal on the Wednesday before), but at least I didn’t make any major mistakes. ^_^

After the performance everyone (there were some 40-odd dancers for about 7 or 8 different pieces) took pictures before changing and cleaning up. Thankfully it didn’t take quite as long to get out of the kimono as it did to put it on, but still, getting everything put away/cleaned up took a fair bit of time.

Before I left, I was given the flowers my supervisor had thoughtfully sent for my performance. Given that she had been in Canada for almost a week before my performance, this was no small consideration on her part! Unfortunately I wasn't able to take a picture of myself in the kimono with the flowers, but I still had all the make-up on and my hair up when I got home, so I took a self-shot of just my face/head and the flowers to send to her in my thank you email.

After taking the photo, I had just enough time to get all the make-up off and to change to go to the Hanasuzukai (the dance group's name) enkai. I didn't have enough time to take out my hair (they'd put so much stuff into it, I would've needed to wash my hair as well as taking out all the pins, etc.), but that was OK.

I walked to the enkai since it was pretty close and it was an unusually warm night. I was expecting the enkai to last about two hours (the usual length), but it ended up going for five! They even had a nijikai (and I later heard about a sanjikai), but I skipped out on that and went home.

It was fun and there was quite a lot to eat. My conversational Japanese is still pretty horrendous, but there were a couple of people who had pretty good English, so that made things easier.

All in all, it was a good experience. Even though I was rather ambivalent at first, I'm glad now that I started taking the lessons. Next I just have to take the initiative to ask about joining taiko (which I've been wanting to do since last year's Aki Matsuri)!

(For more photos, see my Culture Festival Dance Performance Facebook album! I've also added an album with pictures from the 2008 Kirita Halloween Party.)