4th Crazy Country Dance Festival

Dec. 1997 by Martha Ogasawara

The 4th Crazy Country Dance Festival was held in Tajimi, Japan on November 22nd`24th. Over 100 people came from all over Japan to attend what is definitely the premier C/W dance festival in Japan. (Actually, it's the only C/W dance festival in Japan, but still....)

This year's special guests were Jo Thompson and her partner Tim Szymanski. They were brought over especially for this Events and everyone totally fell in love with them!! Despite the fact that their workshops had to be translated into Japanese, their clear and precise style of teaching made their lessons a joy to attend. The level of the dancers attending ranged from first-time ever to fairly experienced, and yet they were able to all attend the same workshops without anyone being bored. The workshops that weren't taught by Jo and Tim were taught by the very capable local teaching staff.

You may wonder what exactly was crazy about the festival. The crazy part of the name comes from the name of the sponsoring club, Nagoya C/W Dance Fans "Crazy Feet". But it could also describe the desire of everyone attending to learn as much as possible while they were there. Although C/W dancing is by no means a well-known activity in Japan, those people who do do it are very serious about it.

Before the festival officially started, there were several hours of intermediate-level workshops in WCS, Two-step and line dance technique for club members only. This was to serve as a sort of reward for all of the work they would be doing behind the scenes once the festival got started.

The festival officially started at 3:00 on Saturday and the first day there were 2 line dance workshops and a beginner's Two-Step workshop. After that there was an optional afterparty/dinner at a resturant. It was held in the traditional Japanese style where everyone sits on the floor at low tables and their food is brought out in courses. There was of course much drinking and merry-making and after several cups of hot sake Tim became quite the life of the party. It's funny how a few drinks can overcome any language barriers. All of a sudden, a lot more people were able to speak English than had previously let on.

The next morning the workshops started again bright and early. Jo and Tim were thankful that they were never scheduled to teach first thing in the morning. The second day of the Events was the main day and a number of people came just for that one day. There were 3 new line dance workshops, an introduction to Night Club Two-Step, and a quick review of some of the dances that had been taught the previous year. One of the notable features of the festival was that there was a lot of time spent reviewing and just dancing the new dances that were taught. Rather than overload the participants with new material, it was felt that they would be better off really learning the dances. There were only 6 new line dances taught in 3 days and everyone seemed to agree that that was enough.

Jo and Tim were asked to do a number of exhibition dances. Many of the people attending were also square and round dancers, and so there was also one of each of those done during the afternoon break. There were several clogging demonstrations as well. Many of the people attending simply like to dance and do more than one kind. Almost everyone participated in both the line and couples workshops, and if there weren't enough men in the couples workshops, then some of the women learned the lead and people were rotated. Fortunately, there is not the polarization between line and couples dancers yet that you see so often in the U.S..

The second evening was devoted to open dancing and a just for fun line dance contest. The dance used for the contest was called "Twist-em" and everyone learned it for the first time that afternoon. It's a very easy dance (or as Jo would say, "Ea````zee```!") and because there are 8 counts of just doing the twist, people could really express themselves. Everyone was encouraged to participate and although at first they sort of held back, after a few people got going, everyone started trying to outdo each other, especially in the finals. You could tell there were some former gymnasts and just general hams in the crowd.

One of the most gratifying things about the Events was the number of people out on the floor for the open dancing. There were several hours of solid dancing and the floor stayed packed the whole time. This past year a concerted effort was made to try and teach some of the same dances all over and it obviously paid off.

The third day there was another line dance and Two-Step workshop and then the afternoon was spent reviewing everything that had been taught. Then it was time for clean-up and the staff was left mulling over just what kind of festival they want to put on next year. If you've ever had a secret desire to take a trip to Japan, then make sure that you do it when the 5th Crazy Country Dance Festival is being held. That way you can participate in your favorite activity and travel to a new place all at the same time.