West Gate Park outside the Metropolitan Exit of Ikebukuro Station is a small oasis amid the hurly-burly of that northern Tokyo hub.
With polished granite under foot, seating all around, a fountain, a (somewhat odd) statue and a small stage, the plaza is a pleasant spot for office workers to take their lunches, and for bands and dance troupes to entertain.
One memorable summer evening last year, though, that same atoll of urban calm became the site of a street party at which hundreds and hundreds of people of all ages and cultures suddenly found themselves dancing, singing and laughing together.
Back then, the cause of all that shared joy was Ryohei Kondo, leader of the Condors contemporary dance troupe, who took the stage and taught the crowd the steps and movements to his simple, newly choreographed Bon-odori dance. Meanwhile, other Condor members moved around the plaza giving up-close lessons in this synchronized silliness as the crowds multiplied, the drinks flowed and the food stalls did a roaring trade.
After last year’s success, the event is set to happen again at the same place next month. On Sunday, Aug. 1, a one-day dance festival will be staged by Owl Spot, Toshima Ward’s public theater.
The Condors are looking for volunteers and are requesting those interested to respond by July 7.
Originally an ancient village dance, Bon-odori was performed to welcome the souls of people’s ancestors back home during the summer Bon holiday.
The folk dance has various forms and many are still popular in modern Japan. Many towns and villages include Bon-odori in their summer festivals.
The dance itself often consists of people performing the same moves at the same time together in a circle or in lines, with many participants dressed in yukata.
“New Bon-odori” will be held on Aug. 1 from 5:30 p.m, at Ikebukuro West Gate Park. Ryohei Kondo is asking for 180 volunteer dancers to help with the festival. To volunteer and take part in advanced dance workshops with the Condors, please apply with a reply-paid postcard by July 7. For more details about the festival and volunteer applications, call Owl Spot at (03) 5391-0751, or visit www.owlspot.jp