Sunday, November 1, 2009

Soul Run Performance & The ICU Festival

Halloween weekend (31st Oct-1st Nov) was my University's festival (学際, gakusai), where we performed the heavily-rehearsed Soul Run dance.

Rob, Katy and I cycled in at lunchtime on the Saturday to get ready for the 3pm performance. We met the others at the gym and got changed into our happi (法被), the costumes for the dance. And we got hachimaki (鉢巻) headbands for the first time, and tied them ourselves, with a little bit of difficulty!

We then took all our things from the gym to one of the buildings near the stage, Shin D-kan. I was so nervous! I was terrified I was going to mess up in a really obvious way... We had half an hour to get even more scared, but the time passed quickly, and then we were lining up behind the stage, waiting for the act before us to finish.

I had invited one of my housemates from last year to come and watch, and he saw me waiting and wished me luck before going to join the audience.

Our leader (団長, danchou), a very cool guy called Rei, went out first and introduced us on the microphone to the crowd gathered on Ahoyama (あほ山), the name of one of the hills outside the main building (本館, honkan) in ICU.

He gave the signal for us to file out and take our places. As soon as I stepped out in front of everyone my mouth dried up completely. I was so nervous!

We found out places and took the first position. Rei took his place in front of us, and we all waited for his shout. And then we were off!

There are lots of videos of the performance on YouTube (unfortunately I don't have any). Here's one of them, but if you put "ICU Soul Run" into the search bar it comes up with several of them, including performances from previous years.

The following photos might give you an idea of what the dance was like... I'm the tall white guy closest to the camera in this top one.

I made a couple of timing errors, and one bigger mistake towards the end, but thankfully nobody noticed until Rob pointed it out (thanks Rob, haha), so hopefully it's not too obvious.

But I was so so happy to have accomplished that. We put in so much time and effort into that four minute performance! Towards the end of the seven weeks we were doing 8-10 hours a week after our lessons to try to make it look as smooth as possible.

And I was so pleased we did it! It was a similar feeling to when I finished the Midnight Walk across Tokyo a few weeks before.

And everyone was overjoyed to have done it!

After the performance, we congratulated each other and celebrated back in Shin D, before splitting up to enjoy the rest of the festival without worrying about the dance!

There were lots of stalls selling food and drink made by the students, and everything was organised and arranged by students. It was really amazing, how hard people worked to make everything happen. And it was the nicest atmosphere!

That evening we had an after party (お疲れ様パーティー, otsukaresama paatii) in Kichijoji. We went to an all you can eat and drink place and had a really nice time. Everyone was in the party mood, and framed photos and teddy bears were given to Rei, and three other members who are in their final year at ICU. The staff (幹部, kanbu) all worked incredibly hard towards the performance, and we owe them so much for everything.
It was Halloween night so there were some people out in costumes. As we were deciding who was going to karaoke, and who was going to a club in the centre, two small Japanese children came up trick or treating, and the boy found me hilarious, as I was wearing a Tigger hat with a tail. At least I hope it was the hat that he found so funny...
We went to karaoke and had a really nice evening, knowing that we'd done a good job.
We went back to ICU the next day as well, to see other performances, and soak up more of the fun atmosphere. The weather was lovely on both days, clear skies and around 20-25C. It was the warmest Halloween I'd ever experienced!

The taiko drumming was incredible, and the performers worked really really hard - you could see the amount of effort it took!

Rob and I watched Smooth Steppers, which is ICU's hip hop-style dance club. It has well over 50 members! The dances were all amazing, and I really enjoyed watching them. One of our friends, who's in my Japanese class, and also lives in our guesthouse, was performing, and she did incredibly well.

After Smooth Steppers, the performances were over, and it was time for us to watch the Closing Ceremony. It's usually held outside, but because there was a risk of rain, they held it in the auditorium.
This was where we would find out who won first, second and third prize for the performances. There were 40 performances in total that we could vote for. But I don't think the way the voting was done was very good, because people could only vote for who they wanted to win 5 minutes after the act. Which means that people can't see everything before deciding which was the best.
But, despite that, we had received a text saying that Soul Run was in the top three as the votes stood, without Smooth Steppers being counted, which it had never done before. So lots of us headed to watch, as there was a chance we would be asked to dance again.
The ceremony was very good, with lots of good acts - juggling and dancing, and things like that.

And then it was announced! Soul Run didn't make the top three! We were knocked off by Smooth Steppers in the end. But they did deserve it, they worked really really hard. But Soul Run still came fourth, which is the best they'd ever done! So that was definitely a good achievement.

It was a really nice weekend, and it made me really feel like I was part of the ICU community, and even more a part of Soul Run. I wish Leeds did something similar - I should suggest it!

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