Inspired by Olympics, Japanese Seniors Learn Breakdancing

04:21 June 28, 2024

Inspired by Olympics, Japanese Seniors Learn Breakdancing

Saruwaka Kiyoshie is a 74-year-old surfer and classical Japanese dancer. Now Saruwaka is interested in a new event for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris: breakdancing.

"I used to see kids breakdancing under the railroad tracks and would think to myself, 'I'd probably be one of them if I were young',” Saruwaka said. "And now, breaking is going to be added in Paris, and Japan even has a gold medal candidate."

Saruwaka is a member of a seniors' breakdancing group. It is Ara Style Senior, Japan's only breakdancing group made up of older citizens.

A rehearsal

On a recent Friday, eight members gathered in a community center to prepare for a performance at a local celebration. They wore orange and green T-shirts.

The team is the result of work by Reiko Maruyama, 71, an elected official in Tokyo's Edogawa area.

Maruyama had been speaking with Yusuke Arai, the son of a friend and a former national breaking champion. Maruyama presented the idea of getting older people into breakdancing.

"I told him, now that it's going to be an Olympic discipline, this is the breakthrough moment!" she said.

Arai, who has judged breaking competitions, agreed.

Arai started with Maruyama as his only older student early last year.

He suggested that Maruyama join the children he teaches in a performance that would be held at a community center last spring.

Not wanting to be the only adult in a sea of schoolchildren, Maruyama asked Saruwaka to join.

"I want to spread breaking among seniors in Edogawa…, and from Edogawa to the rest of Japan and maybe even the world," Maruyama said.

At the recent gathering, music played. The women took their places and did their dance movements. There were plenty of smiles.

"You can't help but laugh when you see yourself in these funny poses," said the councilwoman. She added, "I think it's great that you can laugh, dance, and stay healthy, and that's why I recommend it to people around me."

'There's no way I can breakdance at my age'

Ara Style Senior now has about 15 members.

The moves the dancers attempt are different from the impossibly difficult moves that competitors will perform at the Olympics. The point for Ara Style's dancers, though, is to have fun and stay healthy.

"At first I thought, 'There's no way I can breakdance at my age,'" said 69-year-old Hitomi Oda. "And of course, we can't do anything extreme, but it's fun just to do the easy moves and get the body working."

For Saruwaka, breaking is a welcome change from her responsibility of passing on the art of the 400-year-old Saruwaka school of classical dance.

"I suspect I'll be breakdancing for as long as I live," she said, noting that it helped strengthen her lower body so she could continue with classical dance.

"I bet I can do it until I'm 100, if I'm still alive," she said.

I’m John Russell.

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