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Suzume Odori with an international flair

Suzume Odori with an international flair

The Tohoku University team will perform on May 14.

12:45-13:40 Suzume dance team competition at the Shimin-hiroba
outside Sendai City Hall
18:12-18:42 Parade on Jozenji

This weekend, the always popular Aoba Matsuri will once again takeover the streets of Sendai in a celebration of life, music and dance. Thousands of participants who have spent the last few weeks practicing their suzume odori, will take their "sparrow dance" onto Jozenji street for the colourful dance parade that is the main highlight of the annual event.

This year, Tohoku University will field a group comprising some 70 international students, most of whom will be performing this traditional dance for the first time. "This is part of a class where students learn about Japan through traditional culture," says Assistant Professor Kaori Shimasaki. "Hopefully, being involved in a real festival will give the students plenty to think about in terms of cultural experiences, as well as great memories to bring home."

Several Japanese students will perform with the international group, and members of the local drum unit Hiyokko (雛鼓), will again support the students with their percussion.

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In addition to the street parade, there will also be a competition for best suzume odori performance. Last year, the international team from Tohoku University won 3rd prize. This year's team is looking to do even better.

"The students really want to win the top prize this year. They've worked really hard," says Shimasaki. "We are an international group so we bring an international flavor to this traditional dance, and that makes our dance special. The free-style part of our dance this year is even more creative than last year's."

The dance is called the susume odori, or sparrow dance, because of its fluttering bird-like movements. It dates back to the 17th century when stonemasons building Sendai Castle reportedly performed this dance for Lord Masamune Date.

Suzume Odori and the Aoba Matsuri are now synonymous with spring in Sendai, and around a million people from all over Japan descend on the city each year for the 2-day festival.

Contact:

Kaori Shimasaki
Tohoku University Global Learning Center
Tel: +81-22-795-3749
Email: k.shimasakim.tohoku.ac.jp

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