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Yosakoi (よさこい) is a unique style of dance that originated in Japan. Yosakoi started in the city of Kōchi in 1954, as a modern rendition of Awa Odori, a traditional summer dance. Yosakoi-style dancing has spread throughout much of Japan. The style of dance is highly energetic, combining traditional Japanese dance movements with modern music. The choreographed dances are often performed by large teams. Along with a number of professional yosakoi schools and town dance teams, yosakoi is also a popular event during the sports festivals held by Japanese elementary, junior, and senior high schools. Yosakoi participants include men and women of almost all ages – sometimes within a single team.
The costumes used by yosakoi teams vary widely. Happi coats and yukata are the most predominant costumes and can be seen in a wide variety of colors. However, some groups choose costumes that are based on historical attire, popular fashions, or ethnic fashions. Typically, all members of a team wear similar costumes.
One of the defining aspects of yosakoi dance is the use of naruko: small wooden clappers that are held in the hands of each dancer. Naruko were originally used in Kōchi Prefecture to scare birds away from rice fields. The traditional naruko has black and yellow beaters on a wooden body, but most modern yosakoi groups create their own naruko, choosing colors and materials that match their costumes. The use of naruko is required in yosakoi dance, but many groups also use other hand-held instruments or props, such as drums, other percussion instruments, flags, batons, and floats.
The official yosakoi dance is based on a song called "Yosakoi Naruko Dancing", written by Takemasa Eisaku. This song was created by combining elements of three songs: "Yosakoi-bushi" ("yosakoi melody"), "Yocchore" (a children's song), and "Jinma-mo" (a folk song of Kōchi Prefecture). The original competition in Kōchi requires that each team's music include some part of this original music. Competitions and festivals in other areas may not have this requirement (thus allowing teams to compose their own music), or may require that elements of different local folk songs are worked into the dance routines. Takemasa has given the copyright on "Yosakoi Naruko Dancing" to the public.
Yosakoi Matsuri ("yosakoi festival") is a festival in the city of Kōchi, Japan. This is the original yosakoi festival: it has taken place every August since 1954. In this festival, teams of dancers and floats crowd to dance the yosakoi naruko dance together. The number of participants has been increasing yearly: as of 2005 over 10,000 dancers participate in this competition every year.
The rules of the Kōchi yosakoi competition are as follows:
Since its introduction in 1954, yosakoi has become popular throughout the country of Japan. Now, Yosakoi-Soran festivals are held all over Japan, throughout the year. They vary in size from small villages hosting a few teams of dancers in conjunction with another annual festival, to large cities like Sendai, which hosts the Michinoku Yosakoi Festival, the third largest festival in Japan.
As of 2005, there were yosakoi festivals and competitions in over 200 locations.
An example of yosakoi dancing can be seen in the feature film The Harimaya Bridge, which was filmed in Kōchi Prefecture. The 2011 manga series, Hanayamata, which received an anime adaptation in July 2014, also focuses on yosakoi.
Yosakoi is performed in Penang, Malaysia every year in July by local enthusiasts called the Pink Hibiscus Yosakoi Dancers, as well as in Accra, Ghana as an annual celebration to strengthen ties between Japan and Ghana.
There are also yosakoi teams at universities outside of Japan, such as UC Berkeley, Kansas State University., Minnesota State University Moorhead, and in New York City "Yosakoi Dance Project - 10tecomai".
In Europe, one can learn and dance Yosakoi in the Netherlands or France. Formed by the students of Leiden University, the Dutch team Raiden performs yosakoi in various Japan-related activities such as the yearly Japanmarkt, anime conventions and cultural events. Its French counterpart was created back in 2010 and perform in several festivals, including the International Fair of Bordeaux.
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