Thousands of Miles from Home


David Bowie

While I'm not terrible when it comes to the task of discerning ages, I have to admit that it is not one of my greatest talents (manning the "Guess Your Age/Weight" booth at Six Flags or the like would not be my first choice of gainful employment). This is especially apparent when it comes to guessing the ages of japanese people. My host grandmother works as a pharmacist, walks regularly, and has dance class every wednesday night. And judging by her appearance, I would never guess that she is 74. Did I mention she goes dancing!?!

Shoko and I walked up the steps to a large conference room bursting with the sounds of a spanish tango. When I entered the room, Shoko's mother stood with a group of older women and a male dance instructor. They offered me tea and said they were so glad that I came to dance. I said I was only there to watch, but perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind I thought otherwise. I watched the Waltz and Tango while drinking tea, then was finally convinced to try them myself. I didn't step on anyone's toes, and was surprised that I remembered at least a few of the steps.

As it turned out (coincidence?), a large jazz dance party was being held at a nearby school this Sunday. I have been teaching english on thursday nights to a wondeful group of kids, whose mother plays piano for the jazz band. My host father enjoys jazz, so he took me to the school. At first I couldn't even get him to come inside the room with me. He said he would come back later. So I entered by myself to find many (older) people dancing to some upbeat quick-step jazz tunes. The jazz band was rather large, and was sitting behind some traditional jazz band stands that read "Grove Unity." I took a seat near the back, and looked at the band's program. Over the next few hours a wide selection of music had been picked, including the waltz, rumba, samba, quick-step, GO GO, tango, and cha cha. Before I knew it, my host dad had slipped in the back door to listen to the music.

My host dad took a seat beside me and explained that he would stay for the first (of three) sets of tunes, then come back when the music was over. He said he didn't like to dance, but did enjoy the music. It didn't take long before people took notice of me in the corner. There were many couples, of varying ages, but some seemed very skilled when it came to ballroom dancing. When an upbeat quickstep song started, a very short obaachan (polite term for grandmother) with plenty of jewelry came and asked me for a dance. I don't confess to be a great dancer, but I think she had fun. When I finished I got a big round of applause from the people who witnessed the crazy american and old woman breakin' it down.

After the first dance I felt a lot more confident and asked some of the more skilled dancers to show me some moves. With a little refreshing I remembered the cha-cha, and the other dances sort of fell into place. I tried the waltz but didn't come close to pulling off any of the higher level moves. After the first set of music ended, I talked to the woman who played piano, and danced with her to the recorded music that played while the band took a break. When the band started up again, I noticed that my host father had stayed to watch after all. And to think that I couldn't even get him to come in at first.

Also at the dance were some young looking guys from south america. They, like me, couldn't speak much japanese but women were all over them to dance. They danced fast but I was impressed. I was also blown away by one woman who seemed to dance all songs perfectly. Even when her male partners weren't that great. Needless to say I was jealous.

After the concert my host dad brought me back home. He agreed that we both had a great time, and later told me that there was to be another jazz concert with a different band next week. I don't think this one will envolve dancing, but I could use a break.


  • no meringue? that would've floored them all :)

    By mimi, at 7:38 PM  

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