[STORIES] Wataru Yonezawa: Awaodori Performer/Producer

Do you think awa-odori is being something cool?

Wataru Yonezawa is the performer and producer of Takarabune that is the Japanese traditional dance “awa-odori” troupe.

First of all, if you ask me what’s the fascination of awa-odori, I believe that it is how it can be appreciated beyond the borders of language and cultures.

I am running a creative dance organization called Takarabune, which is the only awa-odori group active in Japan.
Our objective is to spread the fascination of awa-odori internationally.

– How did you start to perform awa-odori internationally?

In 2011 we received an offer from Hawaii to perform awa-odori and it was decided that we would be performing in Honolulu.
A day prior to our first international appearance, the 3/11 earthquake occurred in Japan.
Coincidentally it occurred on that day.

Even though the festival itself was not cancelled and continued as planned, I’m sure everyone had this uneasy feeling lingering inside of them.
Since we were given this opportunity, we decided to take our full time and dance the awa-odori.
Unexpectedly, we were thanked by many people for giving them encouragement.

From this experience, from performing the awa-odori on foreign land, I was able to learn that the traditional entertainment that I previously did not have confidence in, could be something that clears away the anxiety in people.
If that’s the case, and since we started abroad in Hawaii, I want to present our dance to the world.
To prove that the world may be connected through dance, I strongly desired to expand our movement internationally.

– What it the goal of Takarabune?

Unfortunately, the current young generation, especially in Tokyo, do not have an understanding of the awa-odori being something cool. I think that the reason why it has become this way is due to the belief that festivals, culture, and the traditional arts is something ‘old’ rather than ‘modern’.

I want to revise this belief into an understanding that Japanese culture is something that can be fun and appreciated.
Something that young people find cool. Something that more and more people want to do. Having pride in one’s own culture.
This is the future that I want to create.

http://en.takarabune.org/ (English)
http://takarabune.org/ (Japanese)