Japanese Fan Dance

Today I wanted to try something with the group that I have tried out with the previous group. When I last tried this workshop idea it was a huge hit with the participants so hoped it would have a similar effect with the participants from this centre. For this I wanted to introduce my fans as a prop we can use to dance and create movement.

We began looking at Japanese art and Japanese writing, noticing the beautiful way in which ink is used. Then taking the fan (closed, like a pen) we began writing our names in the space. I challenged the group to write their names in as many different ways possible. Big, small, in the air, on the floor, with the other hand ect. When I could see the group were beginning to challenge themselves I played a piece of music titles ‘Cherry blossom’- Which was a very zen like Japanese track which was calming yet energising, I asked the participants to respond to the music. They were instructed to continue with their fans drawing what the music reminds them of or how it makes them feel in the space. As the group continued to get really into the task and the music I then asked them to imagine their bodies are an extension of the fans and to use their whole body to paint. Around 7 participants decided to stand for this and I could feel a real buzz from both those seated and standing. As the music came to an end I asked them to repeat the signing of their names one last time and come back to sitting. All looked warn out so were Cleary fully immersing themselves in the task.  When I asked what they were drawing it seemed to be things that made them calm or made them think of calm. We had different trees and plants, rivers and waterfalls and some drawing personal memories of calm (holidays to the country side and trips to Dovedale in Derbyshire).

After a very creative, improvisational activity I decided to give their creativity a bit of a rest whilst I taught them some tradition Japanese Fan dance movements. We learnt different patterns that could be made with the fans and experimented in different formations, speeds and orders. I tried to keep this short as I could tell the group were feeling particularly creative today, so before long I opened the space up again. I turned on some more Japanese music (this time slightly more energetic) and asked them to respond using some of the steps they had learnt today. However I also said that they were to look for moments to join together using contact, as a whole group, in pairs, using eye contact). After giving a few suggestions we began. This time more than half the group decided to stand. The room was full on movement with fans moving all over the space but in a very controlled way.  The fan dance steps were coming to life in many ways and patterns and images were becoming clear. We improvised for a whole 6 minutes before I finally asked the group to make their way back to the outside of the circle. I opened the space once more asking participant’s to place their fans in the centre to create their own piece of Japanese Fan art. Here’s what they created;


When I asked for the participants to explain what they had made some said it was their own bloom trees or flower beds whilst other said they could see motor bikes, roman helmets and animals. Everyone was open to each other interpretations and enjoyed seeing what others could see.

To finish we went back to a calmer place doing a gentle warm up which explored elements of Thai chi to relax the mind and bring the heart rate back down.

Before we knew it another session was over. We tucked into some hot drinks biscuits and some cakes!!! (thanks to a participant who was celebrating her birthday). As I hoped the session gathered some fantastic feedback and all were feeling great both physically and mentally.

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