“Cause I-I-I’m in the stars tonight …”
This is perhaps the 10th time this particularly catchy segment of the hit K-pop group BTS’ song “Dynamite” has played in the past five minutes — not that this bothers the half-dozen or so kids dancing energetically in sync in front of me, a sea of arms waving, bodies twirling and smiles sparkling.
It’s Tuesday evening at Studio Tron, a small, friendly dance school in the Nishiazabu neighborhood of Tokyo. It offers an array of dance classes for all ages, including several kids dance classes and girls hip-hop (there’s even hip-hop with childcare and postnatal classes for moms).
For dance-loving children, Studio Tron is clearly the stuff of dreams. Feel-good pop music blaring? Check. A wall of mirrors identical to one you’d find in a grown-up studio? Check. And when we visit, the friendly teacher, Mayuko, informs us she has even performed as a backup dancer for a string of famous names, including SMAP. Double check!
It’s after extensive pleading from my daughters — aged 6 and 8 — plus countless impromptu post-bath dance performances in their pajamas that I take them along to Studio Tron for a trial Kids Dance class.
Before their session begins, we peer inside the studio to watch the tail end of the previous class — a clutch of teeny kids are dancing enthusiastically to K-pop, some following the teacher, others doing their own freestyle body shaking or rolling on the floor.
It’s soon clear that Mayuko, laid-back and stylish in a pink T-shirt and khaki mask, is friendly, relaxed and completely in tune with the kids — smiling, laughing, shouting words of encouragement and even stopping at one point to hand out sparkly stickers.
When the Kids Dance class begins, my daughters join three other girls and three boys (all aged somewhere between 7 and 12) and shake their heads shyly when asked if they have any dance experience (clearly deciding not to share their home dance sessions).
First, it’s warm-up time: Cue a fun series of stretches before mats are laid out on the floor and they perform a medley of moves, from press-ups in partners to rows of cartwheels and finishing up with a handstand against the wall.
The children all seem to feel at home (one girl has been dancing here since she was 2) and they also clearly relish the physical release after a long day at school — plus, just like the teacher, they are warm and welcoming and happy to help my beginner daughters.
And then? It’s finally time to dance. The second that the BTS song, “Dynamite,” starts playing, the class leaps into a fast-paced synchronized pop routine in front of the mirrored wall (my daughters look on with a mix of awe and bewilderment from the side).
Clearly keen not to leave out the newbies, Mayuko focuses this week’s lesson on learning a brand new segment to the dance routine. “Kuru-kuru-kuru-hey! Don-don-don-don! Kuru-kuru-kuru-hey! Don-don-don-don!” she exclaims, which appears to loosely translate as “swirl your arms around in a circle then stick one up in the air, before doing the same on the other side.”
The K-pop bop continues to play on a loop as the kids happily practice their new moves all lined up in a row and facing the mirrored wall, all of them smiling widely and bouncing with energy.
Eventually, they split into several teams and each creates their own pose (in my daughters’ group, this involves a sultry hands-on-hips look) before the music plays again. As Mayuko calls out numbers, one by one each group showcases their popstar-like creation.
It’s a fittingly fun and show-stopping finale to a class that clearly lifts the spirits of all the kids attending — and perhaps best of all, doesn’t take things too seriously. Testimony to how popular it is? None of the kids want to leave at the end, and continue to play games for a while with Mayuko (one mother has to almost drag her daughter home).
And as for my kids? They leave beaming and energized, and now ask me — “pleeeeeeeease!” — nonstop if they can go dancing every day. And their post-bath performances are now a touch slicker.
The only possible downside? For days, I’ve found myself humming “Cause I-I-I’m in the stars tonight.”
Studio Tron (studiotron.jp) offers weekly classes for children aged 3 to 15, all taught by professional dancers. The lessons are in Japanese, but English speakers are welcome. One class costs ¥2,750; a two-class ticket is ¥5,170; and a four-class ticket is ¥9,680. Initial enrollment fee is ¥5,500, plus ¥1,100 administrative charges.
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