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Unique 'Muscle Musical' on stage this weekend

Date Posted: 2010-10-28

The sights and sounds of Muscle Musical are like nowhere else; the only musical in the world where there is neither signing nor dialogue.

It’s the #1 rated show in Japan, and it’s on stage at the Okinawa Convention Center Saturday and Sunday, with show time at 3 p.m. There’s also a 6:30 p.m. performance on Saturday. “Playing in harmony with muscles” is the concept behind the unique show, which first was created nine years ago by a group of gymnasts and dancers. The distinct sounds of body-slapping is the signature of the Japanese production, which often resembles a Cirque du Soleil-esque acrobatic performance.

This latest Muscle Musical Matsuri, meaning ‘festival’ in Japanese, features the traditional Japanese culture of ‘Oiran’. In ancient times, Oiran were courtesans. The oiran were considered a type of yujo, a "woman of pleasure" or prostitute. However, they are distinguished from the yūjo in that they were entertainers rather than simply sex workers, and many became celebrities of their times outside the pleasure districts. The latest version features costumes designed by world-famous fashion designer Junko Koshino. Although it features traditional Japanese culture, it will also feature a twist with modern Japanese pop culture. The troupe—there are actually several that criss-cross Japan and also perform in Las Vegas, will bring 18 dancers, acrobats and other former gymnasts to the Convention Center stage.

The former professional athletes work hard during performances. “We test our physical limits every time we perform,” says 41-year-old Hiromitsu Takashi, a Muscle Musical leader. He sheds an average three kilograms every performance. Arms and legs pay heavy tolls, not the least by the frequent slapping that echoes across the stage and out into the audience. One popular performer is Yasuaki Yoshikawa, a 2003 World Gymnastics Championships wheel gymnastics bronze medalist. Wheel gymnasts perform inside a two-meters in diameter wheel. Yoshikawa first began his wheel gymnastics as a student at Ryukyu University here in Okinawa. To describe the acrobatics is difficult; many of the maneuvers are so simply breathtaking, one must be there to appreciate the performers’ talents as they jump over vaulting boxes, beat imaginary taiko drums, dangle from a 4.9-meter-high bar connected only by bungee cords, or biking off a four-meter-high platform onto a mattress.

SS tickets are available for ¥6,800 while S tickets cost ¥6,000. Children pay the same rate. Tickets are available at Lawson and Family Mart convenience stores, and MCCS Tours + ($83).

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