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Fans of Japan

May 19, 2018 Minbuza

Despite months of effort to find a good outdoor location suitable to the Japanese folk dancing of Minbuza, we were glad to have an interior location at Bridgeport International Academy as our shoot day was in the pouring rain.

Led by artistic director Momo Suzuki, Minbuza (Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York) preserves the Japanese traditional dance of multiple regions of Japan, and performs these in festivals, schools and theatrical venues. For 25 years, they have shared authentic dance of Japan with international audiences.

On Saturday, May 19, 7 dancers and Ms. Suzuki made the long trek to Bridgeport, Connecticut to perform their original choreography for the filming. Headmaster Frank LaGrotteria of Bridgeport International Academy had graciously welcomed us to film there. We had wanted to use a beautiful Japanese garden nearby, but the logistics of filming wouldn't work. So we had to create a framework for the dance in a large empty space.

The group performed four dance segments for the shoot, including male and female dancers, and using traditional fans, parasols, kimonos and hairstyles. The camera team did heroic work with lighting and set decoration, with help from our two production assistants, Yeosup and Anson, as well as the support from BIA faculty. The difficulties were surmounted through the artistry of the dancers, and the professionalism of our DP and B-camera operator. Momo's assistant director, Kevin, helped with the technical issues of the music, as well as translating into both languages; a graduate of Juilliard, Kevin composes original scores for film productions.

We are lucky to have a Japanese-language proficient, Yousuke Kiname, operating our B camera, and for our director, Lan Tsubata, to understand and speak some Japanese as well.

Having Japan represented in the film was important to us because for nearly a century, Japanese pay tribute to the spirit of Beethoven's vision by having 10,000 singers perform the Ninth Symphony--the same composition we use in the film--in a celebration called "DaiKu" (Big Ninth). This event started with an event of reconciliation between German prisoners of war and their Japanese captors after World War I. The Japanese and Germans developed friendship and mutual respect despite their former enemy status, and it was Beethoven's 9th Symphony and its message of "All mankind" that coalesced that friendship. We hope that in "Dancing Joy," we can honor the Japanese for having renounced war and chosen peace after experiencing the terrible consequences of militarism.

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