General

Japanese flamenco dancer capturing the hearts of Londoners

JIJI

Nanako Aramaki, the only professional flamenco dancer from Japan performing in London, has been winning hearts with her brilliant dance steps on stage while also working as an employee of a telecommunications-related company.

One recent Sunday evening, the 36-year-old started dancing to a festive Sevillana song performed by a singer and a guitar player on the stage of a downtown Spanish restaurant.

As the performance continued with tango and other tunes, Aramaki’s powerful steps, in tandem with the music and hand-claps, brought the show to a climax. A round of applause filled the packed restaurant when the show ended to cries of “Ole!”

There are countless tunes for each genre of the traditional Spanish performing arts known for passionate dancing and singing.

Unlike shows on big stages, the tablao style of performance at restaurants is usually done without rehearsal, with the improvisations of the dancer holding the key to the success of the show.

“You never know what’ll happen,” Aramaki says of the appeal of tablao flamenco shows.

Reviewing her performance that evening, Aramaki said she thought she did well overall, although she regretted putting her foot forward too soon at one point and failing to make a good sound with a step at another.

Meanwhile, working for a unit of mobile phone carrier Softbank Corp., Aramaki also spends busy days as a marketing and business development professional.

On top of this, she sometimes teaches flamenco at a school in London.

After immigrating to Canada from Japan with her parents at the age of 3, Aramaki started flamenco at the suggestion of her mother when she was 16. After turning 20, Aramaki quit college and traveled to Seville, Spain, to study at a flamenco school there for a year.

The ballet lessons she had taken from the age of 3 and the piano lessons she started at the age of 6 helped Aramaki acquire the rhythmic and physical sensibilities that are crucial for flamenco. But, she says, “No matter how much you learn, there’s no end (to mastering flamenco).”

As well as London, she has performed in Kenya and Tanzania and toured Japan, which is rated a major flamenco country next to Spain.

Aramaki currently gives priority to her career but is also aiming high as a flamenco dancer.

“Life experience is what’s necessary” for creating attractive flamenco performances, she says. “Your dancing becomes more convincing only after you go through the worst hardships, such as parting with someone close or a loved one.”