For my CIP, I asked to join Kyoto University’s Amateur Dance (ballroom dance) club and they kindly let me participate. Club activities consisted of weekly or bi-weekly practices at local recreational centers, where we learned a variety of dances from tango to cha-cha. The club members were all extremely kind and accommodating despite the frequent language gap, and it became quickly apparent that the regular club members are really invested in the club—not just in improving their dance skills, but in building community. I did roughly a year of ballroom dance in college prior to joining this club (zero dance experience before that), and with this background the practices being held were challenging but somehow manageable. There were some members with similar skill levels as me, but I would say most are better dancers than I am. Some of the members were even taking private lessons outside of club practice.
I was constantly amazed at how kind everyone was to each other. They treated me as a regular member of the club even though I was only to be there for a semester, and I can’t stress enough how incredibly grateful I am for that. Around mid-November I attended one of their bi-annual Dance Parties (formal venue, ~100 guests, dance time), and even though I couldn’t contribute much to planning the event, they kindly welcomed me as a club member and let me celebrate with them after the event.
Some general advice for interested students: the club members are extremely kind and welcoming towards everyone, and that very much includes study abroad students (they told me it isn’t uncommon for short-term study abroad students to join for a while). Having seen the intergenerational ties and motivation of the club members, I highly doubt this inclusivity and positivity is something that will change in the near future, so don’t be afraid to take a first step. Lessons might be particularly challenging for newcomers (notably because fall is second semester in Japan), but this is not a steadfast obstacle. You should definitely feel empowered to reach out and try if it’s something you’re interested in. Be sure to reach out for help, practice to have fun, and (very important) show others a smile even if things are difficult!! It makes a big difference.
Some other one-off tips:
- You can buy cheap dance shoes on Amazon (~$30?). Gentlemen, if you can only get standard or Latin shoes go for the former.
- Go to the post-practice afterparties.
- If you’re interested in private lessons in addition to club practice, reach out to the senior members.
- If you don’t quite understand something, ask! I had a number of times I did something clumsy because I didn’t quite get what was going on.
- Always say please and thank you (aka お願いします、ありがとうございます、お疲れ様です、失礼します、).