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‘We felt the need to mix it up: Japanese and hip-hop culture’

by Baye McNeil

Contributing Writer

It has been a hot year for viral dance challenges and Japan has had its fair share. The most notable was the craze surrounding Da Pump’s “U.S.A.,” attempted by everyone from teenagers on TikTok to U.S. Marines on YouTube.

More recently, though, six kimono-clad young women took to the streets of Tokyo to tackle Lavaado’s “Switch It Up” challenge and their impromptu performance has left Japanese social media circles lit.

 

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The six dancers in the video — Katie Sachiko Scott, Christine Tolentino, Marina Watanabe, Asuka Tazawa, Yuki Sugimura and Momoe Teruya — were invited by fellow dancer Koki Kawashima (stage name: Ko-ki) to take part in a traditional Bon odori dance festival held in Tokyo’s Monzen-Nakacho neighborhood. The organizers of the event were looking for street dancers, youth into hip-hop and such, to take part and the six young women, all dance enthusiasts, answered the call. As part of the festival, they performed more traditional dances — but the streets were calling.

“We felt the need to mix it up: Japanese and hip-hop culture,” says Scott, whose stage name is KTea. “They’d dressed us up in kimono and we knew we’d never get a chance like this again. So, when we had some free time during the event, we decided we should do something street.”

With social media exploding in popularity this past decade, viral dance challenges have become a major part of hip-hop culture. Some standouts this year include BlocBoy JB’s “Shoot Dance” and, of course, Drake’s “In My Feelings” challenge, both of which have resulted in videos that have gone viral worldwide. “Switch It Up,” produced by Cub$kout, came out in the summer.

Most remarkable about the Monzen-Nakacho version, though, is that the six women whose video has been viewed thousands of times on Facebook and Instagram only met each other for the first time hours before creating the video. They learned the choreography in 30 minutes before shooting.

“We searched through the popular challenges on the net and found the ‘Switch It Up’ challenge, rehearsed it together a few times and did it,” says KTea. “We had to do two or three takes because kids kept passing through or we didn’t like the background.”

They landed on a small traditional-looking structure for the background, with a hint of glass skyscrapers in the near distance. The group thought it was a good mixture of old and new, an ideal accent to modern dance postures, traditional clothing and the ethnic mix of the women themselves — three of the dancers are Japanese, two are of mixed heritage and one is Filipino but grew up here.

When the festival finished, the six went their separate ways and didn’t think anymore about the video until later when they realized it had started being shared on social media.

“Right now, we’ve split up,” says KTea. “But we’re hoping to get together and dance again soon.”

You can check out the “Switch It Up” challenge video on KTea’s Instagram at www.instagram.com/3ntertainer.