What a week. My first full week has been nothing short of life changing. From the food to my exceptional and genuine students, Japan is slowly but surely stealing a piece of my heart.
Let me begin with saying, that I was SO NERVOUS to begin teaching these students. I had watched them the Friday before in Anthony Burrell's class and they were just breathtaking to watch. I immediately started to doubt the information that I could give them. I mean how was I blessed with the opportunity to teach such hard working, talented, and driven students in a beautiful country? But then I remembered that God is in control and he put me here for a reason, so their must be something that I have to share with them.
Our first class was great! I began with recording them individually saying their names because I feel that it initiates a great connection between a teacher and student. (I'm still learning and perfecting their names but I will get there!) I was blown away by their technique and work ethic. When I was a student, I'm going to be honest and just say that I did not work as diligently as they do! I feel that now as a professional I have a certain work ethic that I sustain in whatever I'm doing, but these students range from 16-19 years of age and they are unreal. They are focused. SO FOCUSED. To the point that all I can do is tell them how beautiful they all are and push them to go even further.
About three days in, we made magic. At the end of class, I told them all to take their hair down and shake it out. We had just finished Horton class and completed a very typical Horton class combination, set to drum beats by the one and only Victor See Yueng. It was completely spur of the moment, but I told them that we were going to change it up.
I explained how musicality and dynamics are, in my opinion, a dancers most valuable asset in being unique. We had just done a combination that was fierce and upbeat. I told them that I was going to change the music and I wanted their bodies to reflect the change in music. There were no rules. You could hold anything as long as you wanted or move as quickly as you wanted. I just told them to do whatever they felt in that moment. I put on this beautiful song that is accompanied with the most beautiful violins in the background. AND LET ME TELL YOU. In that moment, I saw those students (meanwhile its only been three days) go from thinking like students, to thinking like professionals. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed. All of sudden, they started DANCING. And before you knew it, they were improving and beautifully intertwined with one another. It almost looked like a piece of art that was choreographed (I think I'm going to set a work on them).
I made us all hold hands in a circle to finish breathing together as the music continued playing in the background. I made us all come closer to the middle of the circle to thank them for their beautiful work. I looked up at them to find them all with TEARS FALLING FROM THEIR EYES. Of course I start crying because they are. And in that moment, I was just so reassured that God has me in the right place at the right time. In that moment there was no place else I was supposed to be than in that studio, at the Hinton Battle Dance Academy, at The Tokyo Broadway Dance Center, in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, in this beautiful land of Japan.
I hugged them all individually, very tightly and told them I would see them tomorrow to make more magic all over again.
Outside of dancing, I found time during my afternoons to explore areas closer to my hotel. I went to the Tsukiji Fish Market which is one of the largest outdoor markets in Japan! I thought that instead of eating at a restaurant and sitting down, I would walk around and grab small bites from each of the little stations. I had scallop skewers, Japanese Crab, miso soup with clams, the worlds largest oyster, Scallop covered in Sea Urchin, and Mochi! I know a very diverse lunch, but my stomach can handle about anything. I LOVED the scallops! Not a fan of sea urchin. It kind of tastes like the gooey, brown guts that you might accidentally eat out of a Maryland Blue Crab. The oyster was huge and delicious! But it was kind of weird taking three bites out of the same oyster. A little weird but super fresh. The crab melted in my mouth! I love Miso Soup so the clams as an addition was delicious. And the mochi, which is dessert, had a texture that was like tofu and a marshmellow combined. Super gooey and soft but tough and stretchy! and it tasted pretty good I must say. OF COURSE I ATE ALL OF IT. I left full and happy!
I wandered one day into this area called Piss Alley ( I know... weird name) It feels like you just get transported into an entire new city. Its small and cramped, to the point where I had to duck in order to fit in some places. I was starving when I went (not surprising... I'm always hungry) and decided to go to the place that had the longest line!
SIDE NOTE: That's always a good way to decide where to eat. Long lines, though tedious, mean the food is being prepared fresh and lots of people think its delicious.
It was this very tiny shack, no bigger than a bedroom, selling this pasta dish called Ten- Tama Soba, which had buckwheat noodles in broth with soy/sesame flavoring and tempura vegetables. OF COURSE I ATE ALL OF IT. If you all could've seen the visual, you probably would have laughed! Imagine all of these Japanese businessmen, and then black, tall, lanky Courtney sitting there trying to look cool while eating with chopsticks when the Lord knew I just wanted a darn fork! Anyways, it was great! Also, one afternoon, I went to lunch with two of my students, Hazuki and Kazuki, and the school rep Araki, and had curry rice with egg and salmon. OF COURSE I ATE ALL OF IT.
See the theme? I always eat ALL OF MY FOOD!
I walked around Shinjuku for an afternoon which is also reminds me of Times Squares. There is everything from a Louis Vuitton, to Starbucks, Uniqlo, and little eateries. I went to a national park called the Shinjuku Gyoen, and walked around for two hours! It was so beautiful and peaceful. I must say that I am getting really good at being a loner, and that's not bad thing. I'm usually so busy that I don't have much time to sit with my own thoughts, but I'm getting some really good quality time with myself and I'm loving it.
My final adventure this week was stumbling upon this little Thai massage parlor. Anyone who knows me that all I ever want in life is a simple back rub. That's it. My future husband better give them to me once a day or we may have some serious issues! (kidding!... maybe not) I met the massage therapist and got a a 40 minute massage for 3,200 yen which is only about 28 US dollars!
I WAS IN HEAVEN.
She was amazing, and I've now been to here twice in one week. But it wasn't the massage that made me really connect with her, it was her spirit. She doesn't know ANY English, and I don't know any Japanese. She apologized a couple times saying that she was sorry for not knowing English.
And then, it hit me. I felt awful. I am here in the beautiful country of Japan and I don't know any Japanese. Granted I have always loved Japanese culture and cuisine, but never took the time to even learn basic conversational phrases. I then looked at here, and said "No. I am the one who is sorry. I don't know any Japanese and I am in your home"
It made me think of this idea of this standard that everyone should know and only know English, but what if English speaking people took more time to learn the dialogue of other countries. I then thought:
" One of the most dangerous things to a persons humanity is thinking that the world should conform to their norms. We should all be yearning to learn more about those who differ from us"
She probably doesn't realize it, but her selflessness and spirit made me so upset that I couldn't communicate with her verbally, all because I don't know her language. I want to be someone who can relate to people of all backgrounds and culture. There is something so humbling yet empowering about realizing how small you are in the world. I will teach my children to learn as many languages as they can so that they can be able to learn from anyone in any situation.
That is what makes dance so beautiful to me. It's my master key to all languages, cultures, backgrounds, and races. I am so humbled to be able to do what I love everyday and now see the world all through my gift. A very special person in my life told me I should " Disconnect to Reconnect" which to me, means to let go of what you think is supposed to happen in order to be fully engaged in the beauty right in front of me. I'm currently sitting here, writing this, looking out over the Tokyo Skyline with an old fashioned and just simply enjoying these precious moments ;)
I just sit humbly in awe of all that God has done for me and will continue to share all of the wondeful things I'm experiencing.
But until then,