Stephanie Contreras: Kyoto Amateur Dance Club

I definitely planned on getting involved with a dance group while studying in Kyoto because I love dancing and I wanted to learn how a country like Japan practices an activity that can get very physical and personal. This is why I decided to join Kyoto University’s Amateur Dance Club. Every Saturday from 10am – 1:00pm, I took the Karasuma line and got off at Karasuma Oike station where I walked for a couple of minutes to the Kyoto Wings Center. Once I arrived I would head towards a small room where all the other ladies were changing into their practice clothes. One thing that surprised me was how comfortable they were changing in front of an outsider. They were not shy at all and immediately started asking me to call them by their first names and encouraged me to add –tyan. They were so kind and welcoming from the very beginning and I am so grateful to have been a part of their group.

One big difference during practice is that girls and boys practice away from each other. This is odd considering it is ballroom dance where it is essential for partners to move according to each others movements. In America, both women and men practice with each other from the very beginning. The only time they do not practice together is when learning techniques like proper posture and foot work, but when learning choreography you usually practice with each other. During practice, half of the room was used by the ladies to practice the choreography while the boys were on the other side practicing their own choreography. After everyone had memorized their choreography we began practicing together. In my opinion, this was very difficult. For example, if I made a mistake, my partner would not be able to help me because he does not know what I am suppose to be doing. Every time either one of us made a mistake, we had to ask our senpai where to place our feet when dancing with each other. It just seems to cause more trouble practicing separately.

Other than this, everything was so much fun. I learned several dances like the waltz, rumba, samba, and modern dance. I met new people, made new friends, and practiced casual speech. My CIP has definitely been one of my greatest experiences while studying here in Japan.

4 thoughts on “Stephanie Contreras: Kyoto Amateur Dance Club

  1. Hi, Stephanie!

    So can I please steal your CIP? It sounds like so much fun–although I can definitely understand your frustration with the choice to practice separately until the last minute. Maybe that method stems from a concern about making errors that would mess one’s partner up while one is still in the process of learning the steps?

    I also did a dance activity for my CIP, but have found it difficult to engage in conversation with fellow dancers because the pre-, during-, and post-class atmosphere is very much one of silence among the students. Other than ballroom, what did you get to talk about with the other dancers?


    • YES PLEASE. I definitely recommend doing ballroom dance. The thing about practicing separately is that everyone was just beginning to learn the choreography. Everyone was at the same level and the only people that knew the steps were the choreographers themselves. If people were at different levels then this (practicing separately) would have made much more sense.

      It was very difficult to engage because you are distracted trying to practice the dances. Some of the things we spoke about were things from America, things I liked about Japan, and why I was interested in ballroom dance. I would talk about my experiences and they would tell me their reasons for joining the group. The conversations never got too personal and the topics were never random either. I do hope you do this next semester!

  2. Was it awkward when you finally do come together? Did your partner seem hesitant to dance with you, or did it seem like anyone was dreading having to work so closely with the opposite gender? How were your experiences from the beginning different than at the end?

    • No it wasn’t really awkward for me, but maybe one guy or two felt really nervous and I could tell they get really focused on the choreography. This makes things a bit awkward. I really do believe that dancing gives both genders confidence to speak to each other. I started thinking they would be hesitant dancing with one another but no it turned out they had no problem dancing closely together. In the beginning, it was rare for them to ask me to dance, but after a couple of times they realized that I am not as bad as the other foreigners in the group. By the end I was getting asked to dance after almost every song. You can see that with time these Japanese guys start to get comfortable and even begin conversations while dancing. It was a really great time.