The Saipan Awaodori Team performed in seven major events in 2016 and is already looking forward to a memorable 2017, its 10th anniversary.
Sonia Siwa, who coordinates the team, said that 2016 started with performances during the Flame Tree Festival at the Civic Center in Susupe in April and Taste of Marianas at the American Memorial Park in May.
The group also took part in the Liberation Day Parade last July, joined by 70 members of the Koenji Awa-odori Association dancers and musicians from Tokyo, Japan.
From August to September 2016, the team was a familiar fixture during the Festival of Cultures at the Paseo de Marianas.
The group also took part in a Commonwealth Cancer Association anti-domestic violence event last October.
In December, the team performed during the Mochitsuki Festival that capped off the Christmas in the Marianas event of the Marianas Visitors Authority at the Paseo.
Last Dec. 31, team members impressed the crew and passengers of Nippon Maru and MS Asuka 11 with performances when the two cruise ships docked at the Port of Saipan.
On top of all of these, the team also performed all Saturdays of 2016 at Paseo de Marianas at 6pm, 7pm, and 8pm. They are expected to maintain the schedule in 2017.
Siwa said the Saipan Awaodori Team currently is composed of 48 dancers and 12 musicians (ohayashi).
The team members are instructed by three regular instructors—Misako Kamata, Sheena Kang Saures, and Zac Sakisat.
Kamata remains the primary instructor as she is always present in all practices for both dancers and musicians, while Saures was in Japan for almost two months during a study trip (July-August).
Sakisat leads the musicians while also playing the kane. He was in Japan for almost three months for a study trip as well and performed with the Tokyo Tensuiren or the Awaodori Festival celebration (June-August)
From time to time a member of an Awaodori dance group from Japan also comes to check the progress of the members on Saipan.
Practices are held at the Koblerville Youth Learning Center and Kinpachi Building every Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30pm to 5pm.
Last year also saw the team celebrate its 9th anniversary. For the occasion 70 members of the Koenji Awa-odori Association in Japan—the biggest group to ever visit Saipan—came to Saipan last July 3 to celebrate and perform with the team at Fiesta Resort & Spa and at the Paseo de Marianas.
“This year is the 10-year anniversary of Saipan Awaodori Team and they have more bigger plans ahead,” said Siwa.
Saipan Awaodori Team is coordinated by PDM Promoters, Inc., a CNMI non-profit corporation.
The Awa Odori dance, when literally translated to English, means “fools dance.” Awa means fool, while odori means dance. The annual Koenji Awa Odori Festival is the second largest Awa Dance Festival in Japan, only second to Tokushima Prefecture’s Obon Festival.