How to bon dance
Dance the Bon Odori and More at Obon, Japan’s Festival of Souls
Most of Japan is gearing up to celebrate one of its most important holidays: Obon (お盆), or simply “Bon” (the “o-” being an honorific) — a centuries-old, time-honored Japanese tradition that involves honoring one’s deceased ancestors for three days in summer.
Obon in 2022 will begin on Saturday, August 13, and end on Monday, August 15.
Observed in a number of ways — from quietly paying respects to the dead to dancing the Bon Odori in celebration, Obon still has a significant role in Japanese society to this day. Here’s all you need to know about this holiday!
Table of Contents
Obon: A Backstory
Obon has its roots in Buddhism. The story goes that Maha Maudgalyayana (or simply “Mokuren” in Japanese), one of Buddha’s most faithful disciples, discovered that his mother was suffering as a hungry ghost in the afterlife.
By “hungry ghosts,” we don’t mean a spirit that just needs a little nourishment. We’re talking evil, deeply unhappy, and/or neglected ghosts cursed with insatiable hunger. In some types of Buddhism, these ghosts have thin necks but severely distended stomachs, making them unable to eat at all.
But back to Mokuren’s mother. Buddha instructed Mokuren to offer food to her and other hungry ghosts on the 15th day of the seventh month to release them from their pitiful state. Around this time, the gates of the afterlife are said to open, leaving the dead free to walk the earth.
And because no one wants to see their loved ones in pain, people did as Mokuren did, offering food and cementing the Obon tradition and similar festivals in East and Southeast Asia.
When Is Obon?
Obon is observed in July, August, or even September — depending on who you’re asking and which calendar you’re looking at.
The Chinese lunar calendar, which ancient Japan followed for centuries, sets the dates for Obon as the 13th to 15th of the seventh month. But since Japan switched to the solar Gregorian calendar in 1873, there’s no fixed date for Obon across Japan — just like the Tanabata Star Festival.
Some regions celebrate Obon during the Gregorian calendar’s equivalent, which usually falls between August 8 to September 7, while others observe Obon from July 13–15. It’s not very common to see Obon celebrations in September, though. Typical dates for Obon holidays are July 13–15 and August 13–15.
Is Obon A Public Holiday?
No, Obon isn’t a public holiday, though there is one that falls close to it: Mountain Day on August 10. But out of respect for tradition (and to give employees extra holidays), many offices and establishments close for a few days in July or August in observance of Obon.
If you’re visiting Japan from mid-July to late August, we recommend checking in advance that the attractions you plan to visit will be open. As summer is one of Japan’s peak travel seasons, entertainment facilities like theme parks and aquariums typically don’t close for Obon, but shops and restaurants might change their business hours or close for a few days.
How Is Obon Celebrated?
From solemn and private to lively and large-scale, here are the ways that Japanese people observe Obon.
Lights play a significant role in Obon, as they’re also used to help spirits find their way home on mukaebon (迎え盆) — the first day of Obon — then to guide them back to the spirit world on okuribon (送り盆), the last day. (Mukae and okuri mean “to welcome” and “to see off,” respectively.)
Families hang lanterns outside their homes to serve as guiding lights, but some areas take this idea further by holding large-scale ceremonies.
Kyoto, for example, sends spirits off with the ritual bonfires of Gozan no Okuribi, better known as the Daimonji Festival. Every year on August 16th, large bonfires forming the shape of kanji characters, a torii shrine gate, and a boat are lit on five of Kyoto’s mountains. The most iconic of the bonfires is the one on Mt. Daimonji, forming the character 大 (dai, “large” or “great”).
Some hold toro nagashi (lantern-floating) ceremonies, in which candle-lit paper lanterns with messages written on them are floated down rivers. In Tokyo, toro nagashi events are held at Chidorigafuchi Moat in late July, and the Sumida River in Asakusa in mid-August.
Nagasaki in southern Japan holds a similar festival: the Shoro Nagashi (Spirit Boat Procession), when elaborately decorated boats made of bamboo, grass, or hardened cardboard are sent downstream. While still meant to honor the dead, Nagasaki’s procession is a more lively affair, as people give spirits a send-off to remember with firecrackers, gongs, and loud chants.
Offerings and Spirit Animals
Whether or not your ancestors are hungry ghosts in limbo, a little pampering never hurts. Plus, this holiday is especially for them! Throughout Obon, families leave offerings of incense, food, and flowers on memorial altars at home, and/or their deceased loved ones’ graves. Ritually cleaning gravestones is another common practice.
Along with these offerings, people also decorate altars with cucumbers and eggplants propped up on sticks. These are shoryo uma (精霊馬, literally “spirit horse”) — spirit animals. The translation in English might be the same, but these are different from the Native American concept.
The cucumber and eggplant symbolize a horse and a cow, respectively — spirits’ modes of transportation during Obon. The cucumber horse is slender and moves much faster, so it’s what spirits take to reach our world at the start of Obon.
The eggplant cow moves more slowly but is chunkier, so the spirits can take their time in leaving, while having enough legroom for all the offerings and well-wishes.
Bon Odori and Other Summer Festivals
Many, but not all, summer festivals have something to do with Obon. For instance, while they’re held throughout summer and have since lost the explicit connection to Obon, fireworks festivals tie into the concept of guiding lights. They may be all about putting on the biggest, brightest pyrotechnics shows now, but Japan’s earliest fireworks festivals were originally meant to honor the dead.
In contrast, as festive as Bon Odori dance festivals are, their connection to Obon is hard to miss — it’s in the name! Remember Mokuren from the backstory of Obon? He’s said to have danced with joy after learning that his mother’s suffering was over, starting an entirely new practice: the Bon dance.“Tanko Bushi,” a classic Bon Odori song
Bon Odori refers to a whole range of dances performed during Obon. These were originally meant to welcome the dead and celebrate their presence. Styles and music used vary across Japan, but the moves are generally simple and fairly easy to learn, so that everyone — even those with two left feet — can join in.
At Bon Odori events, people — typically clad in light cotton kimonos called yukata — gather around a tower-like elevated stage called yagura to dance around it from sundown until night. These festivals usually have lots more going on, like food, booze, and games, but the dance is the main attraction.
Who says traditions don’t evolve with the times? Don’t be surprised to see people dancing the Bon Odori to rock and disco music!
中野駅前大盆踊り大会— はやとデラロッサ (@hayatodelarossa) August 14, 2018
Some regions have their own distinctive versions of the Bon Odori, too. Shikoku’s Tokushima Prefecture is the birthplace of Awa Odori, a dance style that alternates between frenetic and slow, creeping movements.
And, while neighboring Kochi Prefecture’s yosakoi — a lively dance that uses clappers called naruko — isn’t a Bon Odori offshoot, it holds a huge yosakoi dance festival every August, around Obon.
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If you’re really into Japanese dance, nothing beats going to Tokushima and Kochi to see their dance festivals, which take place just days apart from each other. But Tokyo, as well as several other big cities across the country, has its own Awa Odori and yosakoi festivals, too — and they’re also popular in their own right!
Sadly, in-person summer festivals won’t be happening this year, but some organizers have been thinking of holding them online. In the future, if you’re in town for a Bon Odori festival, don’t be shy; just join in and dance the night away!
Ghost Stories for (Literal) Chills
Halloween may now be big among Japanese youths (albeit as a day for dressing up, not for scares), but the original spooky season in Japan has always been Obon. It makes sense: Obon is the time when the dead return to the world of the living, so there are bound to be some unhappy, vengeful spirits in the mix.
Gathering ‘round to tell ghost stories is an Obon practice that’s older than you think. Way back before air conditioning existed, many Japanese believed that ghost stories would give people the chills, therefore helping them beat the summer heat.
They even made parlor games out of this practice — hyakumonogatari kaidankai involves gathering in a dark room, lit only by 100 candles, to share tales of the supernatural. After each story, a candle would be extinguished. Blowing out the last one was said to summon something too frightening for words, so most players would stop at 99 tales.
Today, this Obon custom lives on in the form of haunted houses and other seasonal horror attractions at amusement parks. You might also see horror-themed Obon specials on TV, as well as ghost-story roundups in the media.
Obon in Modern Japan
So what do the Japanese of today do during Obon? Nowadays, most Japanese aren’t religious, though they observe religious customs for tradition’s sake. Many Obon-related festivals are now secular — just because some are held on temple or shrine grounds doesn’t mean that visitors are expected to take part in religious or spiritual rites.
Some treat Obon as a time for returning to their hometowns for a family reunion, but not necessarily to clean deceased ancestors’ graves. Households that don’t observe Buddhist customs may not even celebrate Obon at all!
As mentioned above, this is a peak time for travel. Japanese professionals tend to take vacations at the same time — that is, close to or during public holidays — because they’re usually too busy to take time off otherwise.
As such, it’s become common for young Japanese to travel around or outside the country during Obon. If you’re visiting Japan in summer, expect crowds and long lines at attractions and other establishments, especially around the first half of August.
Roads and expressways will be congested — allow for delays if you plan to travel on the road. Also, hotel rates, airfare, and highway bus prices usually spike around this time, and Shinkansen bullet trains may fill up easily.
If you’re planning to travel via Shinkansen during Obon, it’s best to reserve seats (and luggage storage, if need be) early enough. Otherwise, you can take a chance on non-reserved seating.
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This Buddhist observance honoring the ancestors came to Hawai`i in the late 19th century with a large wave of Japanese immigrants. Obon is observed in Hawai`i during the summer months, when family members place flowers and food on the graves of ancestors and friends and recite the nembutsu, an expression of appreciation, before the family altar.
The centerpiece of the ceremony is the bon dance. It is believed that the first bon dances were performed in the fields where the immigrants labored, and in between houses on the plantation. Later dances were held in temple courtyards. As work schedules began to conform to the Western five-day week, bon dances began to be scheduled for weekends. The bon dance is a way of expressing gratitude to ancestors and loved ones no longer here. It is a way of reflecting upon the preciousness and fragility of this life. Even though the sense of loss of family and loved ones is strong, a festive mood prevails at the dance. Although the dance nearly died out with the onslaught of anti-Japanese fervor that swept Hawai`i during the '40s, a post WW II event spurred its revival in 1951 when four Japanese-American veterans' groups sponsored a bon dance to honor the war dead from Hawaii. That revival was also powered by tourism and the convergence of several island traditions: interfaith services, interracial marriages, racial harmony, and bon dance clubs. Today the bon dancers are not only Japanese Buddhists, but Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and native Hawaiian, Protestant and Catholic. Bon dance clubs in recent years have enlivened the bon dance tradition. Each bon dance club specializes in the music and dance of one of the prefectures of Hawaii's immigrants. Some clubs provide musicians and group of dancers to lead the dancing, while others provide only the music.
Over the years, the ceremony and the practice of Buddhism itself underwent significant change to adapt to the islands' multicultural society. The 23-page essay submitted as part of the project explores the history of that transformation and the present place of the Obon in Hawaiian culture. Accompanying the essay are a 25-minute videotape of a bon dance performance, 30 8 x 10 color photos, and an audio cassette of bon dance music.
Originally submitted by: Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Senator Neil Abercrombie, Representative (1st District) & Patsy T. Mink,Representative (2nd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.
Author: Pavel Gather
Psychologist, Lecturer Salsa and Tango
Author: Pavel Pavel
Psychologist, Lecturer Salsa
on At the start, you always want to get a quick result. When it doesn't happen, the hypothesis arises that everything takes time. After a conditionally acceptable time, humility comes to mastering pair dances, which, perhaps, is not given, and I will just do what I learned somehow.
This is the most common story of those who believe that the mere act of attending a pair dance class is enough to learn how to dance.
Absolutely not. If you want to really dance well, you have to make an effort outside of the dance class. A good teacher will definitely be needed, but the initiative should be on your side.
1. Listen to music
The most common and accessible advice that is given already in the first lessons. And it definitely works. Music creates a certain atmosphere of the dance and intuitively you want to move to it. It doesn't matter where you listen to music - in the car, on headphones while walking or doing household chores.
An addition that will help you dance better is your active participation in the music. Sing along, dance or simply beat musical accents with any free parts of the body. In the subway, for example, it is enough to tap out bright moments with your fingers, in the car to sing along with sounds, and at home you can jump for pleasure.
2. Watch videos of good dancers
It's complicated, but also obvious. It’s more difficult, because without recommendations from more experienced dancers, unfortunately, it’s not so easy to find a good quality video on the net (I mean not the resolution quality, but the content itself).
Meaningful video viewing is about building an understanding of HOW dancers make a particular impression on a partner or viewer. Technology is at the heart of everything. Understanding how the pros do it is a big step forward.
It is important to distinguish a show from a disco dance, a staged performance from an improvisation, a stylized dance from an authentic one, etc. Ask for recommendations and dance teachers will always throw off a couple of videos of worthy landmarks.
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3. Dance in salsatecas/milongas/discotheques
A very delicate moment when it is worth coming to the first party. From a technical point of view, most students in 1-3 months have a sufficient set of figures and techniques to come and dance calmly. Psychologically, the same moment can be stretched out for an indefinite time. After all, it is imperative to “not lose face”, “learn more figures” and be sure what to do in case “there is an unfamiliar movement”.
In fact, the partygoers don't really care (except for a small layer of non-professional teachers who want to help inexperienced dancers by treating them as customers in the future). It is important to come and try dancing after a month of classes. You can only with friends or guys from your group. This will be enough to feel the adrenaline and inspiration from the dance.
4. Dance with partners or partners not of your level
The conventional wisdom that you need to practice in groups of your level does not withstand the test of experience. Perhaps now your eyes widened in surprise, and you want to meaningfully read the phrase again. Yes, you saw everything correctly: when you dance with a partner of your level, you don’t grow anywhere.
It's important to understand that not only does it work one way and you have to dance with cooler dancers, but it works even more effectively the other way. It is no coincidence that teaching pair dances dramatically raises the level of the teacher himself. You have an endless stream of very beginner dancers.
How it works. A more experienced partner needs to be "stretched". It's easy and obvious. With beginners, you need to take more initiative on yourself, see the general pattern of the dance more widely, turn on and insure more, try to be an example and be more careful. The quality of interaction begins to grow significantly. And wonderful partners too.
Dancing with partners of your level doesn't make you grow. Dance with both beginners and more advanced dancers
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5. Learn to dance for a partner and for a partner
Turks and Argentines are one of the best partners in the world. In Russia, partners are highly valued. Why? The answer is simple. In Argentina and Turkey, it is not questionable for men to ask another man to lead in one piece or another and give feedback on the quality of the lead. For them, it will be a great shame to hear moralizing from a partner, or even more so to be known in the community as an insecure partner.
In Russia, due to the constant, often far-fetched, opinion that there are more women in pair dances, partners calmly get up and study their partner's part. Such partners then grow into very cool dancers and teachers. In no case do this at parties, only in class. Here we are talking only about the learning strategy. At parties, be yourself.
6. Do not memorize the links
Always try to look deeper and understand the through principle and idea of movement. Understanding what and how is done will make it possible to independently generate any sequences and chips.
Human memory is limited and there will always be a moment when something will escape and your repertoire will be limited by the size of RAM.
In Argentine tango, for example, there are seven levels of movement construction that, when mastered, will allow you to make millions of combinations. And how many dance sequences can you really remember? In rueda, more than 150 figures dance in a rare circle. It's hard to keep more in mind.
7. Develop your body
Many years of experience in teaching couple dance shows that as soon as everyone pairs up in a class, any progress in individual style ends. But it is the individual style that distinguishes everyone at the disco: partners change, and style is always with you.
The body as the main instrument of dance must be very plastic, responsive and emotional. Surprisingly, not all pair dance schools have a general physical warm-up. It is vital to tune the body and understand how it works.
You can always train extra and concentrate more on the basic steps, as their true value is as body work. The sequence of steps is, in fact, the simplest thing that can be in pair dancing. The quality of individual performance determines the craftsmanship.
8. Try on the images of inspiring dancers
A psychological life hack for those who have already mastered the steps, but still feel that there is not enough brightness and drive. Most are terribly afraid of being someone else's "clone". Here the action is the same as under the influence of hypnosis - the more you resist, the more you plunge into an altered state of consciousness.
With a high degree of probability, you are already dancing like someone else's "clone". A meaningful fitting of someone else's image is that you mentally take the image of the one who inspires you (inspiration is critical in this case) and "put on" yourself. Then you start dancing and trying to feel in general how it is to be able, for example, to be the best partner or the sexiest partner in a disco. This is much more difficult than it seems. But it works extremely efficiently.
9. Dance to offbeat music
Habitual rhythms keep you tight. Tango salon or speedy timba leave little room for experimentation and fantasy. Pattern dancing is always noticeable and is reserved for beginners.
The truly new is born outside of the usual. Look for places to experiment. If there is no place, organize self-training. The main thing is not to get carried away, because music determines the style. We bring something new to pair dances, rather than trying to change them.
Search, improvise, don't be afraid to go beyond, develop in different directions, be inspired by music atypical for the style
10. Try your hand at basic dance directions
dances exist according to their own non-choreographic laws.
This is the deepest delusion, which has turned into a ceiling for the qualitative development of partner dances. After all, all professional dancers, for example, in salsa or bachata, build their ideas on the basic choreographic principles.
Do not think that choreography is only applicable on stage. Any meaningful movement of the body can be choreographic. In general, try classical or modern choreography. Basically, hip-hop can work too.
11. Look for battle sensations
Pair dances return us to an active position of manifestation of our body. As in the days of our ancient ancestors, we impress the members of the opposite sex by how dexterous, hardy, sexy, etc. we are. Modern laws of the jungle in the entourage of big cities.
If you look around the dance floor, it becomes clear that the majority are clearly herbivores (not in the sense of vegetarians, but in relation to those around them). I am sure that predators are always more interesting in terms of the attractiveness of the image - try to find a counterbalance among herbivores, for example, a cat woman or a lion man.
The conversation is about an internal position, not about aggressiveness. Lability and lack of control are inherent in adolescents, and not in adult self-sufficient people.
Accordingly, even a training or friendly battle gives, on the one hand, practical skills - to make a bright sequence of movements, bring an idea to a climax, show a spectacular feature, on the other hand, develops the psychological basis of the dance - self-confidence, resistance to extraneous attention, self-control and self-control in complex elements.
12. Communicate with professionals
The environment shapes the internal position. Basically, real passionaries of the dance community are ready to openly talk, discuss and support the development of dance in every possible way. Universal principles and the ideas they articulate have a much longer and more practical perspective than meets the eye.
Accept that, for example, behind the words "listen to your partner" is not only a beautiful metaphor, but also a practical skill to literally listen to your partner. At the same time, always treat every thought, even the most respected teacher, as a private opinion.
Your skill will lie in finding the scope of the idea even in conflicting opinions. Most often, the contradiction is speculative and the truth lies in the angle of perception or situationality.
Your dancing growth will stop sooner or later. This can happen at the level of three basic steps or years of experience in teaching and show performances. Regardless of your level, the suggested 12 life hacks can get you off the ground and greatly accelerate your dance growth. There is no way here without your motivation and activity. Take your dance development into your own hands. 9Ol000 Dangerous sexuality
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7 tips for those who want to learn how to dance
September 9, 2020Reno5Life
Dancing is a great way to make friends with your body and gain self-confidence. And yes, they can be mastered at any age.
1. Choose your style
The idea here is the same as for sports: if you secretly hate yoga or iron exercises, you are unlikely to go to workouts week after week. To achieve noticeable progress in dancing, a beginner will have to practice a lot and regularly, so it’s better not to torture yourself and choose a direction that really ignites.
You can focus on the music that you like - you need to catch the drive from movements to it. It is music that forms the style of dance and its energy, so decide what is closer to you: for example, funk lovers should try popping or locking, folk fans may like Irish dancing, and if you respect jazz, swing and everything like that, take a closer look at lindy hop.
Another criterion is the nature of the movements. Some are closer to dynamic, as in hip-hop, others are smooth and sensual - for this in tango. There are also health restrictions to consider. So, twerk is not suitable if there are problems with the lumbar spine, with sore knees it is better not to get involved in shuffle, and it will be difficult for an aged person to master house.
2. Set a goalPhoto: Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock
You can start dancing at any age, but it's important to keep in mind why you started it in the first place. It is perhaps too bold to expect that in half a year of classes it will be possible to reach the level of international dance championships from scratch. But if you want to try dancing in order to develop plasticity and learn to feel the body better, great, go ahead.
Don't expect to get it right the first time. When you learn from scratch, difficulties are absolutely normal, the main thing is not to score in classes. Over time, both the correct posture and a beautiful gait will be developed, and as a bonus you will also get self-confidence - with freedom of movement, freedom from complexes will come.
3.Don't give up on sports
Some dances in themselves make for a good workout. A vigorous shuffle will replace cardio, and a break can give a load to almost all muscle groups. And yet, without preparation, it will not be easy. A more or less good stretch is needed in any type of dance, and, for example, strong arms and strong abdominal and back muscles are also useful for pole dancing. You can combine dancing with strength exercises, but you need to give the body time to recover and not plan classes in a row, but allocate at least a day of rest between them.
And don't forget to warm up before dancing. So that the training does not end with an injury, the muscles and joints need to be prepared for the load. You can allocate 10–15 minutes for a warm-up, it should include simple articular gymnastics (at least elementary rotational movements of the shoulders and knees), tilts and dynamic stretching.
4. Take some lessons from a trainer
Especially if you have never danced before. Those with experience can learn new styles at home with video tutorials, but that's because they already know how to control their bodies. Beginners are unlikely to succeed, but disappointment in themselves and demotivation are guaranteed - if you can’t repeat elementary movements, then there’s no point in doing it.
Nothing really strange here. Without preparation, it is difficult to just take it and start moving freely. At least the basic elements are better to master under the guidance of a pro, and when you feel that you are coping, supplement these lessons with home workouts.
5. Learn something new in every class
When you repeat the same set of exercises and movements over and over again, classes turn into a good way to pass your free time, only you can forget about progress. Acquaintance with new elements is the same mandatory part of any workout as a warm-up. It doesn't matter if you work with a mentor or on your own.
Do not immediately try to copy cool dancers. First, study the basic movements, then try to combine them into bundles until you hone them to automatism, and then experiment and improvise, creating something new based on familiar elements.
6. Record yourself on video
It is not necessary to record the entire workout from the warm-up, it is enough to record only those moments with which you have problems. These can be separate movements or bundles that are not given in any way. Review the video and, if possible, objectively assess what is wrong: perhaps there are technical problems that are difficult to notice in the process. When you understand what's wrong, try to repeat the movement and record it on video again - and so on until you achieve a good result.
This approach will help you find errors and track progress. You can not even limit yourself to memorized ligaments, but improvise - then see how it looks from the outside.
7. Find like-minded peoplePhoto: Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock
If you need an extra reason not to miss classes, then meeting new people can be a good motivation. It is easier here for those who train in a group. Often the dance school becomes the center of a close-knit community, where people come not only for the sake of classes, but also just to spend time together at dance parties.
Finally, the more partners around, the more experience. Do not limit yourself to dancers of your level of training and practice with those who are stronger or weaker than you. In the first case, you can improve your skills, and in the second, you will try yourself as a coach - this, by the way, is a good way to learn to take more initiative and understand the very principle of movement in dance, and not just memorize the alternation of chords.
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