Though not quite as surreal as the performance we gave in May at a rakugo event, playing the part of some kind of corporealised voices of the underworld, our most recent performance at IM Japan on Sunday 6th was certainly something a little different.
The information we had to work with was that it was at the Indonesian Embassy School, and that the guests were visitors from overseas, in Japan for research purposes. They'd wanted some traditional culture to be added to the line up, and that's where we came in. When we arrived, you can imagine our surprise to see some 500 odd young Indonesian students crammed into a school hall, each of them wearing hachimaki around their heads.
Not to be perturbed, we got on with our preparations as per usual, but the atmosphere was a little more tense than usual. We're used to seated audiences of around 50 tops, and this was ten times that. And normally our audiences don't look like they're in the middle of militia training. What is it about a hachimaki that does that I wonder...
The previous week, the otoko odori had tried something a little different, adding a slow section in the middle of our usual routine. The music had been the Tokushima folk song "Iyano Kohiki Uta", performed on flute. As it had worked out so well that time, I decided we should do it again, only this time one of our most senior members, a Tokushima native, volunteered to sing it instead. We don't normally have vocalists, but many teams do, so sure! What could possibly go wrong?
Eventually it was time to begin. The people who had the stage before us were a pop group comprised of very young and energetic girls, who'd got the audience whipped up into a frenzy, which meant we could either ride that enthusiasm, or destroy it. Our entry, right through the middle of the crowd who had parted like the Red Sea, was very enthusiastically met, which was a very good sign.
There were some minor problems of course. 500 people crammed into a school gym hall meant it was very hot, it wasn't until a few minutes into the performance that somebody realised that 99% of the students couldn't see anything and got them all to sit down, and the mics were giving quite harsh feedback for a while. Overall it was a successful show though.
When it came to the new part, there was a slight delay while our singer struggled to find a mic that worked, but not enough to give any sense of unease. I would like to make that a part of our regular routine, but it may be better to stick to the flute. We'll see.
Finally, we had our dance class section where we teach everybody the moves. That would normally involve getting everybody to dance in a big circle around the room, but with that many people, it clearly wasn't going to go well. In the end, they all moved on the spot while we milled about among them. They seemed to enjoy it.
Next performance is in a couple of weeks, a volunteer performance at an old people's facility, and our final regular festival of the season at Hatsudai.