Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cultural Arts in Seattle: Obon Festival

The first weekend I moved back to Seattle, even before my belongings arrived, I went to the Seattle Obon with my friend, Lani. The Obon originated over 500 years ago as a Japanese Buddhist custom of honoring the departed spirits of one's ancestors similar to the Mexican observance of El Dia de los Muertos. Today, the Obon is more of an occasion to get together, have some good Japanese food and participate in the dancing as you'll see later.

The festivities kicked off with taiko drumming, which was excellent and well choreographed.

What I enjoyed is how they invited the former teachers and students to join in for the final performance. Clearly, there's a set drumming pattern to each piece as the older drummers were in sync with the students since I doubt that they all practiced together.

But what impressed me the most was the dancing -- not because of the talent but because of the breadth of participation! I was amazed at how many people joined in. Dancers form a circle, going up and down the block. In the middle are the teachers who act as guides. For the popular dances, the street was lined four rows deep. But the great part was diversity of the dancers! There were children, teens, young adults, parents, and grandparents. I saw a group of college-aged guys dancing in row! And, there were people of every nationality - Asian, African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic. I loved seeing everyone dancing in unison and that all these people had spent time learning the dances, which are typically taught in the weeks prior to the festival.

Each dance tells a story through the movement. One of the most popular and easiest dances is known as the coal miner. The photo above shows people imitating coal miners digging. This is an old and traditional dance. However, there are also newer dances as such as the Ichiro, inspired by the Mariner baseball player. Now that I'm in Seattle, I look forward to learning these dances and participating next year.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. Although I make fused glass, I would like to share other arts that inspire me, whether they be cultural arts, other art endeavors or art made by others. Does this approach appeal to you? Please feel free to share your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. Lynn,

    Thank you for dropping by my place today and leaving your kind and affirming comments. Sandra is the mother of Helen Livingston. You will probably remember that Helen and her husband, Sam, along with their 4 children, are serving the disabled in Taiwan. Helen will fly back to Taiwan later this week. I miss Sandra...

    I love what you have done with your blogsite. And your "how to's" look interesting - I'll be visiting those again just for fun.

    I know you and Steve are very happy there. May God continue to richly bless you in your new adventures.

    Love to you,