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Lady Takes Flamenco Dance to Higher Heights

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1999-12-24

Loud shouts of castanets pour on the visitor like rain as soon as one steps into the flamenco studio in Naha City. Then, stumps of heels follow at a rhythm that can only be described as perfectly timed. The passionate, yet melancholic melody of Spanish tune filters through those dominant sounds.

Among the dancers quickly spinning around the floor at a well synchronized pace, Chisato Tomihara, the instructor of Naha flamenco school, keeps her eyes fixed on her students. When the music stops, it is the turn of the students to look towards their instructor for advice. Then, while standing in front of the students, who seem short of breath with shiny drops of sweat on their foreheads, Tomihara corrects their movements, ridding the steps of any faults.

Those intense movements and the intervals are repeated over and over again for about an hour and a half. This is the typical scene at Chisato Tomihara Flamenco Studio every day.

For the past decade, the popularity of flamenco music and dance has increased in Okinawa. People’s interest in this Hispanic gypsy’s folk dance has become hotter and hotter with time. That public trend can be easily read at this one-and-only flamenco school on the Island.

“The popularity of flamenco dance today is tremendous. I get several phone calls from people who want to take dancing lessons every single day,” Tomihara told us.

When the flamenco instructor thinks back over the years, she views the increasing popularity of the gypsy folk dance in Japan with the eyes of someone who has seen it all. Being a pioneer flamenco pioneer in Okinawa decades ago was not easy for her as a native Okinawan; she had to go through rocky times when she first brought the gypsy traditional steps to Okinawa, following years of hard training in Tokyo back in the 70’s.

“At first, there were not enough students for school, not enough spectators for the performances,” the flamenco dancer and instructor with 30 years of experience said, looking back at the early days. But, those days are now history. Nowadays, as soon as one opens a flamenco school, it is packed with students. And when one organizes a flamenco show, the tickets are sold out right away.

Tomihara says she cannot give the exact reason for the dance's popularity on the island. But, for those who have had the opportunity to take a close look at the passionate and delicate movements of flamenco dancers, it is not hard to understand. There is an evident contradiction that can be felt in flamenco's musical flow and the sensitivity of the dancer's movements, the gentle smiles on the ladies’ faces and the intensity of their stumps.

Tomihara’s flamenco studio performs at various events all over the island. On Christmas Day, there will be a mega-flamenco performance at Tomarin Twilight Court (Tomarin 2F), free of charge. The performance will begin at 5:00 PM, and everyone is invited to the event.

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