Japan's Dance Revisited


In the dark early morning hours of Saturday, September 22, at the corner of Delancey and Essex streets in Manhattan, New York, seven dancers clambered into our maxi-van to trek out to Rockaway, New Jersey. These hardy souls--the Minbuza dance group--graciously allowed us to re-shoot their dance in a more beautiful setting. For this special re-shoot, we were able to recruit LightSmith Productions' owner, SunJae Smith, to fill in as DP, and Yousuke Kiname who reprised his role as B-Cam operator. Director Lan Tsubata was on hand--with her "special assistant" 10-year-old DoJoon Lee--and Mie Smith, the film's editor, was also there to assist the camera team. Producer Kate Tsubata drove the team and organized the logistics of the shoot.

After an epic search for the perfect shooting location, we had finally found an airbnb host who allowed us to shoot on his property, and who also offered to cater the meal and provide the soft drinks for the day. Sean and Rita Cao, and their son Ethan, were amazing hosts--and their yard provided a stunning backdrop for a haunting "Katana" sword dance, performed by Kevin Mooney.

For the larger dance group, the main dance was shot at a nearby lake, which was surrounded by trees except for one area of sandy beach. The sun came out, along with a rather gusty wind, so the dancers had quite a challenge dancing with their fans. Undaunted, they did take after take, as the cameras moved around them.

The beautiful lake and wooded areas allowed for several different types of backdrops, so we were able to get beautiful venues for each different dance segment. Then, when we returned to the Cao home, we shot the final sword dance, with the late afternoon sun slanting through the fog created by a machine bought by LightSmith Productions.

It's important to say that for everyone involved--our camera operators, crew and dancers--were all working without any payment, or actually contributing to make this re-shoot happen. Everyone just wanted to create the most beautiful sequence possible, to represent the Japanese culture. It's also fascinating to note that Minbuza (The Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York) is unique in the entire world; most Japanese dance is limited to the dance of one city or region, with very little exchange between those of each region. Momo Suzuki and her son, Kevin, although based in New York, have researched, learned and taught the dances from around Japan, creating a repertoire of dance traditions and culture that they then share in the international setting, performing throughout the U.S. They really have the heart and spirit of "Dancing Joy," preserving and honoring the root culture, but sharing it with all the people of the world. We are honored to have them as featured performers in our film, and look forward to putting all the footage together to make a beautiful film. A very special thanks to Shane Yeager and Celene di Stasio of DC Visionaries for their practical and material support! Thank you to everyone who made this happen!

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