Four members of the Saipan Awaodori Team returned to Saipan last Wednesday after performing in a number of Awaodori Festivals in Japan the past couple of months.
Saipan Tribune met up with musician/drummer Ronald Fitipol and dancers Nyla Julie Sablan Ogumoro, Itheyvin They, and Cody Josiah Litulumar Friday night at Kinpachi Restaurant, whose owner, Misako Kamata, essentially bankrolls the Saipan Awaodori Team.
Also present were the team’s instructors, Mayumi Suzuki and Shunsuke Katagiri, who are former members of the Saipan Awaodori Team’s mother group in Japan, the Tokyo Tensuiren Group.
All four Saipan Awaodori Team members said they enjoyed their trip to Japan very much. They also admitted that while the performances helped them become better musicians and dancers, the practices and back-to-back shows on the weekends were quite tiring.
Sablan, who was in her second time performing in Japan, also learned how to communicate with members of the Tokyo Tensuiren through non-verbal means.
“I really enjoyed my trip to Japan. I’m really happy that we danced with the Tokyo Tensuiren. We all communicated very well given the language barrier. At first it was hard but no matter how much it’s hard we tried our best. We enjoy dancing with Tokyo Tensuiren because they have good basics,” she said.
Sablan thinks she improved a lot and that this year’s trip was different since there were six team members who went to Japan, not counting the two native Japanese (Mitsunobu and Ran Suzuki) who were also part of the group.
“It makes me happy when the people I know better are there with me. The audience also makes me happy when they smile. I also experienced a lot of new things in Japan. I found out that other Awaodori dance groups were different than ours. When we first watched the stage we saw different kinds of costumes and they had different basics, too.”
She also relishes their excursion to the Tokyo Tower.
Litulumar echoed Sablan about the trip being equal parts fun and hard because everyone had to be committed to the practices and performances.
“It was fun and a little hard. I got to know more people during the trip. I’m also lucky to be able to see the highest mountain in Japan (Mt. Fujiyama).”
Litulumar also found out that there are only a grand total of two Awaodori teams outside of Japan—one in Brazil and the other one on Saipan.
They, who made his second trip to Japan, said he thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
“I enjoyed dancing with the Tokyo Tensuiren very much. I also really got to know some members of Tokyo Tensuiren Group. I enjoyed dancing in Koenji. It was both fun and tiring. I also learned how to greet in Japanese and how respect is very important in their culture.”
The most senior of the four, Fitipol, has been performing in Japan the past three years and said the trip’s priority has not changed.
“Awaodori should always be our first priority. But I also learned that we could also have fun and enjoy ourselves while dancing. We need to always do our best and do our basics right. Our trip was great. We had a great time. We got to meet new people. We go to perform there and we got to enjoy as well. We also got to perform in different places like Susono and Koenji.”
The two other members of the group—dancer Eliza Lazaro and musician/drummer Zacarias Sakisat—only arrived from Japan yesterday and were not able to attend the group’s mini-reunion Friday night.