Jamie Suzuki: Kyoto University Ballroom Dance Circle

My CIP, Kyoto University’s Ballroom Dancing Club, has been both a dance and a cultural experience. I look forward to going to practices every week for two reasons. First, it gives me a chance to dance, something that I have been missing since coming to Japan. Secondly, I get to meet new Japanese students and communicate with them on a weekly basis.  Some practices have been more challenging than others, especially with the language barrier, but since the other members are so nice and helpful, overall, it has been a great choice.

The first thing I noticed was the difference between the dance classes I take in America and the practices here. In America, the dances are taught in a much more interactive way. Students are allowed to take time and figure things out on their own and the dance material is presented in verbal and visual means. At the practices here, the material is taught mainly through verbal ways. This could be because there is only a little bit of time to learn a lot of material; so much of the practice time is done with a partner. This disparity made learning some of the dances, especially the ones with complicated footwork, much more difficult than anticipated.

Even though I picked up the movement slowly, the other members were always willing to help me and never seemed to become frustrated. It is a mix of me asking for help and them offering it when they saw me confused. Although there was a language barrier, they used a lot of non-verbal cues to help. How well they treat me and have welcomed me into their group completely combats this stereotype that Japanese people are closed off or shy. Each member of the group has their own personality. The more I get to know them, the clearer their differences become. The idea that Japanese is a homogenous group is completely wrong. There are members who are always making jokes or members that are sassy. I have enjoyed meeting all the different personalities and watching them interact with each other in a culture that is typically portrayed as quiet and agreeable.

Thanks to my CIP, I have had the chance to get to know my new Japanese friends outside of dance practice. I went to a their end of the year celebration with them and had a great time. I have really appreciated how curious they have been about American culture because it helps me feel comfortable when I want to know about their culture. The majority of parties in Japan occur in restaurants or at a nomikai. There are not any wild parties that American culture has become accustomed to. Instead they are more intimate and focused more on getting to know one another and having conversations. My favorite type is nomikai where you can just sit and enjoy conversations with many people. I really appreciate this change because it gave me an opportunity to really get to know the other members.

My CIP has been one of my highlights of studying abroad. It gives me insight into what it is like to be a college age student in Japan. Without my CIP, I may have never experienced what it is like to be a student in Kyoto. It has also taught me a new talent that I hope to continue in America.



3 thoughts on “Jamie Suzuki: Kyoto University Ballroom Dance Circle

  1. It sounds like you had a really great experience with your CIP! Ballroom dancing sounds like a lot of fun, and I know even in America dancing clubs are some of the most social. Some of my friends in American ballroom dance clubs complain about really imbalanced gender ratios though. Did you feel like that was a problem in Japan? Was the gender ratio the same as your experience in America or different?

    • I haven’t actually taken ballroom dance in America, but from what I hear the gender ratio is fairly uneven. I expected the ratio to be an even bigger problem here but so far it has been split about fifty fifty between male and female. Maybe Kyodai students realize how cool bathroom dance really is! Haha or there is less of a stereotype associated with male dancers.

  2. Your CIP sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to experience what you love in a totally new way!
    I definitely see what you mean about the “shy” stereotype. As soon as I began to spend more time at my CIP I began to really notice how incorrect that is. Everyone is so different and “sassy” (totally agree) but always happy to help. When you go to nomikais what are the general conversations you might have?? Mine tend to always stick to travelling.
    That sounds like a really great CIP!