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A photo of a street filled with Awa Odori dancers. There are hundreds of them, all in lines, and the women are all standing on their front toes and holding their arms in the air.

Daily Helping for June 22nd, 2023 – Awa Odori

Story time! I recently visited the city of Tokushima, Japan, home to the famous Awa Odori dance. So of course one of the first things I did was attend a performance of this highly stylized dance at the city’s main performance venue. The show started right on time, with the curtain rising to reveal men, women, and children dancers, including one little boy who looked to be about four years old and was absolutely adorable. They performed one number, which was amazing, and then the dancers all left the stage and a man came out to talk to the audience.

Now, naturally he was speaking Japanese, so I couldn’t understand what he was saying. But he was talking with the audience and everyone was laughing and having a good time. After a couple of minutes, during which I must admit I may have drifted in my attentions somewhat, I suddenly became aware of the fact that everyone in the theatre was looking at me. More alarmingly, the people around me were actually gesturing in my direction and pointing.

In that moment, it occurred to me that maybe everyone was volunteering me to go onstage, and I immediately had a minor heart attack. Thankfully though, the man walked over to me and simply asked me where I was from. As it turned out, he was asking everyone where they were from in an effort to find out who had travelled the farthest to get there that night. And me, as the lone non-Asian person in the entire theatre, easily won that contest. I even got more than a few “Oh!”s when I said I live in France.

The audience discussion finished, we went back to the show. And it was extraordinary. Awa Odori is a dance that dates back to the 12th century, and it is simultaneously both rigidly structured and boisterously energetic. You can check out this video if you want to see it in action. Or better yet, add Tokushima to your itinerary for your next trip to Japan. I had a great time there.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!