Sold on Square Dancing
I attended the first lesson of the Beginner Square Dance Classes (April to July) in Tsukuba last night. The Tsukuba Square Dance Club has been in existence for more than 25 years and it shows! They are an extremely well-organized group with a very large number of members (almost 70).
I went last night with the intention of just watching, but that was really not an option! As soon as I arrived, one of the members took my hand and led me onto the dance floor. Many people made a special effort to come and talk to me and ask me where I was from and how long I had lived in Tsukuba. Everyone made an attempt to speak to me in English, even if it was not perfect English.
Some of you may not be familiar with square dancing, but you really don’t need to know anything to join these classes. The lessons start from the absolute beginning and don’t assume that you have any knowledge of square dancing. Also, square dancing involves a “caller” who tells everyone what to do during the dances, and all of the “calls” are in English. The instructions are often in Japanese, but the Japanese members of the group offered to translate for the foreign people. It is also easy just to watch what other people are doing.
I can’t say enough about how friendly the people were and how well-organized this group is. If you are having trouble finding ways to make friends with local Japanese people, I strongly recommend that you get involved with some sort of group or club that will effectively “force” people to interact with you. The Tsukuba Square Dance Club has a long history of welcoming foreign residents and I don’t think you could find a more friendly club to join. The next round of 15 lessons started yesterday, but they might still allow people to join from the second class (Saturday, April 14).
I am a bit busy these days, so I don’t know if I will be able to continue to attend every lesson, but I definitely want to try. Hope to see you there!
February 2008 Update: I did end up continuing with the classes and have thoroughly enjoyed myself since that day back in April 2007 when I thought I would just show up, take a few pictures, and leave. I highly recommend this activity to anyone who thinks they might enjoy some good, clean fun with some lovely, warm-hearted people. Tsukuba Square Dance Club is one of the most welcoming groups of people I have ever met, and they are always happy to accept new foreign members. If you are thinking about joining, but you are not sure, just come for the first class and see if you like it.
February 2009 Update: I have now graduated from “Basic” and “Mainstream” to the “Plus” level. Believe it or not, there are even more levels, where the steps get more intricate and a bit harder to memorize. I am not usually very good at sticking with any one hobby for more than a few months, but square dancing has really stood the test of time for me (two years!). I think it has something to do with the fact that there are levels, so rather than doing the same thing over and over, I keep learning new things every time I go to a class. I can’t say enough good things about this club. The members are so friendly and everything is well-organized. In fact, the Tsukuba club is so well-known for its high quality that people come all the way to Tsukuba from as far as Mito and Kanagawa every week (despite the fact that there are clubs in these places) just to participate. If you like to move your body and enjoy keeping your brain active, I strongly recommend giving square dancing a chance! (I know that it has a really lame reputation, but if you can see beyond that long enough to give it a try, you won’t regret it.)