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July 24, 2011 / Mika Riedel

“Smile ’11 – Charity dance show for Japan” in New Jersey

A dance event to give courage to the disaster victims in Japan and support the Ishinomaki Children’s Refuge Center was put on in New Jersey! Here is a report of what went on at the event.

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(Text and pictures by Akiko Nousei)

On May 28th, Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey put on their “Smile ’11 – Charity Dance Show for Japan.” The event was sponsored by Miyoko Hirakawa’s T.M.H. Dance Studio, which gives dance lessons in Japanese at Paramus High. In the past, they have held performances to help people afflicted with AIDS, but this time they put on a show for the Ishinomaki Children’s Refuge Center.

Even before the main event began, they created a lively atmosphere by setting up a variety of stalls where you could buy hand-made soba, candy, sushi, or beverages. The amount of energy in the air was almost overwhelming. In the blink of an eye, throngs of people arrived and lined up to wait for the doors to open. Some of them were holding flowers, presumably to give to the costumed students cum performers that were milling about. The rush I felt took me back to my high school days and the school festivals we have back in Japan.

As for the actual performance, it started out with kids who ranged in age from preschool to middle school, but age doesn’t matter once you’re up on stage. The song selection was pretty good, with tunes coming from a variety of different genres: pop, oldies, hip-hop, even J-pop.

The audience of over 600 cheered as the young children gave it their all, smiled at a group of mini Michael Jacksons dressed in Thriller outfits, and were taken aback at the ability of the older kids to tell a story through their movements. Before I knew it, the first part, which lasted over an hour, had ended.

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Guest dancers were welcomed on the stage for the second part of the show. Their performance can only be described as bewitching, in contrast to the more relaxed feel of the studio’s dancers in the first part. The dancers were winners of the Apollo Theater’s famed Amateur Night who had appeared in movies and on stage alongside big-name performers. Everyone was helplessly drawn in by their stunning moves. It goes without saying that their technique was flawless, but they also managed to get a laugh every now and then and even without words they created a sense of drama. There was no doubting their skills as entertainers.

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In the middle of the show, Miyoko Hirakawa, the owner of the studio, made an appearance and talked openly about the passion of her dancers and instructors, the Ishinomaki Children’s Refuge Center, and her love for Japan.

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I could feel a sense of solidarity with the rest of the audience as, for the finale, Ms. Hirakawa and the studio’s instructors took the stage.

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Today was the kind of day that could make you realize that there are things other than money and material possessions—namely, an event like this—that can bring a smile to your face.

※The donations collected at this event were all donated to the Ishinomaki Children’s Refuge Center.

Written by Kodomo Hinanjo Club on 6/15/2011.
Translated by Daniel Sunstrum, Eric Draper and  Kayako Mukainakano on 7/24/2011.
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