Street dance groups spread the love to Southeast Asia countries

Street dancing is probably the most energetic genre in the dance scene at the moment, with many groups giving high-level stage performances.

Since January, the Japan Foundation's Asia Center has been sending popular street dance groups to Southeast Asian countries, where the groups are engaged in cultural exchanges through dancing and helping to promote the dancing style in Southeast Asia.

The project launched in January is called "Dance Dance Asia: Crossing the Movements." It has two purposes: encouraging exchanges between street dancers in Asian countries and supporting them in the creation of joint productions.

Street dancing was born around the 1960s on the streets of the United States. From hip-hop to breakin', street dancing comes in many forms.

Asked why the foundation set their eyes on street dancing, Norihiko Yoshioka of the Asia Center's cultural programme team said street dancing is spreading, so it is possible to develop the project through exchanges, sharing, collaboration and creation.

"Many young people are involved in street dancing in Japan, as well as in Southeast Asian countries," Yoshioka said. "Through this project, I hope they will nurture empathy and promote a harmonious coexistence as neighbours."

At the moment, the project is in its first phase, with 10 popular street dancing groups sent to four Southeast Asian countries in rotation.

From Jan. 14 to 19, for example, three groups - Tokyo Gegegay, TAPDANCERIZE and s**t kingz - stayed in Manila and held free performances and workshops.

"People who didn't know about us would see us dancing and seemed to respond to it well," said Mikey, the leader of Tokyo Gegegay.

"It gave us confidence. After this experience, I feel like I want to spread the message to even more countries."

The groups' style of dancing was taught at two workshops, each with 70 participants who were mostly university students.

One male participant wore black lipstick, the signature makeup worn by Tokyo Gegegay members, suggesting their great popularity in the country.

At a performance by the three groups, Tokyo Gegegay staged a work set at an open day at school. About 500 spectators reportedly watched the show with enthusiasm.

The groups had an opportunity to meet local children as well. As they danced for the kids and taught them simple dance movements, about 50 children gathered around them.

"Many of the movements of street dancing were created from movements in everyday life. So maybe the movements share common denominators with how children move," Mikey said.

"I genuinely felt that through dance, we can communicate beyond words. From now on, I hope to be able to entertain children like them."

Tokyo Gegegay has been dispatched again, this time to Thailand and will give performances there this weekend.

The members' activities there include teaching local children dance movements and performing with them on stage.

The creations such collaborations can bring about are definitely something to look forward to.