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Encounters from Dancing

Natsuko

—Street Performance in Germany and Friedensdorf International

By Itoh Natsuko (tap dancer)

Autumn in 2008, I went to Germany. I’d like to write a little about my visit there.

In 2007, Trave Art Festival Kamakura was held, hosted by Khaju.
I heard that Charlotte, a singer who came from Germany at the time with her daughter to participate in the Festival, and Kyou, a pianist who lives in Fujino, was going to hold a live performance in autumn of 2008. I decided to go to Germany around the time also.
Unfortunately I couldn’t go to the live performance due to work, but I’d always wanted to do a street performance overseas, and luckily I had a partner this time. I took a portable tap table with me, and performed with Kyou and sometimes alone on the streets of Hamburg, Lubeck, and Berlin.

In Germany, it is forbidded to perform before 10:00 in the morning or at open market areas. We cannot perform in front of the same store for more than 30 minutes. Each city has different rules, but street performance itself is generally possible. There were all kinds of performers, such as a person playing a Grand piano, a set of violinist brothers playing while their parents watched, a person drawing on a wide canvas spread on the street, etc.
It was wonderful to be able to perform freely, because in Japan, street performance is against traffic laws. It felt good that my act was nothing surprising. People walking on the streets were used to these performances too. They would stop and watch if it interested them, and even children would throw in money if they enjoyed the show. I learned a lot about the country on this “street dancing trip”. I plan to go to more countries in the future, so anyone willing to offer accomodation, let me know!
This time in Germany, Charlotte and other artists let me stay at their homes. I am so grateful for their warm and encouraging welcome!

On this trip, I planned to visit “Friedensdorf International”, which I’d checked on the internet. This is an organization which has brought injured children from regions of conflict and cared for them without compensation before sending them back to their homes, for more than 40 years. Patients are limites to only children in serious injury. They stay in this village until they are well again. I decided to perform here.

I have a hard time imaging that war is going on at this moment in foreign countries. I read it in newspapers, but understanding it as my own problem is very hard…I am ashamed of this.

I left my friends and headed for the town near the Netherlands border. It was a 4 and a half hour trip by train and bus.
On my arrival, a Japanese staff, Nakaoka-san showed me around the facility. There were small babies and children up to the age of 13, spending 6 to 12 months away from their families. There were canes of various sizes for the children who lost their legs in land mine explosions.
I wanted to use an object that the children use daily in my performance, so I borrowed a pair of canes to use as a stick in my dance. Some children had sore skin on their faces, others had a missing leg, and those who do not have external wounds held inner ailments.
Putting all that aside for a while, I started my performance.
The children seemed to like it when I tapped out rhythm using sand and the cane. When I did a tap a ccappella as my last number, the children began to clap to the rhythm and sing. I didn’t know the song they were singing, but I tapped to it as the audience became one. I learned later that it was the hometown song of Angora.
When I went to the playground after the show, the children came up to me and started to talk to me, tapping their feet and canes. The boys challenged me how high I could kick up my legs. The Angora girls stuck out their hips and chest and danced a sexy dance, asking me if I could do it too. It made me happy, and I accepted their challenge rather seriously.

As I left the childrens’ smiling faces and took the bus ride back, I watched the deserted view of the city and felt emotions spread inside me.
The children were about the same age as my own daughter. They are the ones who will create the same future that the kids in Japan will create.
I wondered if the children would remember me as a japanese that danced with them. Would any of them have a chance to meet my daugher in th future?
I wished the world would change and use songs and dance as a way of solving conflicts, not war. No weapons. If we try and understand the culture of others, we will reacknowledge our own culture and there would be no more war. It is a great thing that the children who could have died on the street were saved by the help of Friedensdorf International, that they were able to keep up joy and hope. It makes me shiver to think that everything that is occuring now is linked to the future. May all children find happiness and not hate.
I wonder what I can do.

If you are interested, please check out the reports on Friedensdorf International. It is funded completely by donation, and the more funds they have, the more children they could help. There is an article in the spring issue of the magazine “Tsuhan-Seikatu” (Catalog House). They are soliciting for a contribution.

translated by Osaka Yuko

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