For my CIP, I am doing Irish dance. To provide a bit of background to that, I started Irish step dancing when I was in elementary school, have performed with a group that does a variety of styles of Irish and Scottish dancing for the past four years, and also do Irish ceili dancing for fun. Here in Kyoto, I’m doing two styles: set dancing, which is generally done with a group of eight, and modern step dancing, which is individual. In the set dancing class, which meets twice a month, we learn and do two or three dances each class. The monthly modern style class is divided into two halves: soft shoe and hard shoe. Irish (and Scottish) soft shoes are flexible, lightweight leather-soled shoes, whereas hard shoes are more like tap shoes. In each class, we work on a couple dances of each type, doing a mixture of learning new steps and reviewing old ones.
In the step dancing class, I’ve also had the opportunity to teach a couple of dance steps I know. This was an interesting challenge in and of itself, as I do not have a great deal of experience teaching step dancing in English, let alone Japanese, and so figuring out the best way to explain the footwork and timing and answer questions was definitely difficult. I ended up simply demonstrating the step or particularly challenging portions of it a number of times, which combined with some explanation generally ended up working.
On top of the regular set dancing class, one weekend there was a big event called a ceili. There was live music, and there were about a hundred people in attendance, a number of them from Tokyo, Osaka, and other places. The dances were a mixture of ones we had been practicing in class, ones we hadn’t, and one that I have done in the States.
In addition to the dancing, my CIP has also proved an opportunity for a wide variety of interesting conversations during breaks in the class and after class at dinner. For example, there have been discussions of differences between dialects and word order in English and Japanese, and I’ve learned a number of Japanese onomatopoeia and tried to explain a number of odd words and terms in English.
While Irish dance may seem like a strange choice for a CIP, it has worked out really well, I think in large part because I was hoping to dance here regardless of whether it was my CIP. I have previously found social dance to be a good way to meet people where I’m from and at school, and I was pleasantly unsurprised to find that to be the case here as well.
All that being said, I do have a cautionary note for future KCJS students looking at these blogs for inspiration for their own CIP: If you don’t have previous Irish dance experience (or maybe English country dance or contra for the set dancing), this is not the CIP for you. I would have been utterly lost had I not had some previous knowledge of set dancing and particularly of step dancing.