Dear “Ooh Aah!” Dancers,
Welcome to the web tutorial for the dance “Ooh Aah!,” and thank you for dedicting your time to be a part of this. I am excited to work with all of you to create a powerful performance that will honor the Japanese people and their culture, and kick-off the 2019 World Parkinson’s Congress with a bang.
In the following pages you will find a combination of text and videos that will guide you through learning the “Ooh Aah!” step-by-step. Before we dive into practice, however, I want to fill you in on some of the details and background surrounding the piece so we are all on the same page.
Location: Kyoto International Convention Center
Number of Performers: 30-70
Rehearsal Dates: Monday, June 3rd; Tuesday, June 4th
After learning “Ooh Aah!” over the next two months with your rehearsal group or on your own, we will have two opportunities to rehearse all together. The first will be in a random room at the Convention Center on Monday. This will give not only give us all a chance to meet and practice together, it will also give all of us a chance to familiarize ourselves with how to get to the Convention Center, and where we will meet on Tuesday. On Tuesday we will rehearse for several hours on the stage we will perform on. This way we will know exactly how the performance will go when we perform later on that evening.
It is important you come to these rehearsals well-prepared and already able to perform the dance. These rehearsals are for ironing out the details of performing together. In order for that to work everyone has to know the dance already and come ready to perform.
“Ooh Aah!” Two Years Ago:
If you are worried about your ability to learn the dance, you need not be. Eight people with Parkinson’s already performed a version of this dance two years ago, and they did very well.
I originally created “Ooh Aah!” as a dance to be performed at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in New York City, which is one of the biggest fundraisers for Parkinson’s in the U.S.. I took eight people with Parkinson’s from my class, along with four movement practitioners without the disease, and over the course of six one-hour sessions we were able to learn the dance. Some people needed to spend more time practicing at home or to receive a little extra guidance, but when the time came to perform everyone rose to the occasion.
I have changes a few details of the choreography from this first version of “Ooh Aah!,” but the difficulty level is the same, and I have full confidence you will be able to learn “Ooh Aah!,” and perform it well. I will be providing help and answering any questions you have through your group leaders who I am in direct contact with. If you do not have a group leader, you can email me directly.
“Ooh Aah!” at the 2019 World Parkinson’s Congress:
Our performance will be larger in scale than the version performed at the Unity Walk in New York. Instead of 12 performers we will have in between 30 and 70. We will also be performing on a larger stage in front of a large audience. Hundreds of people with Parkinson’s, and top doctors and researchers from across the world will watch our performance in the main hall of the Kyoto International Convention Center.
We also plan to release a video recording of the perform online. This should allow ten of thousands more people with Parkinson’s to see our dance. The last dance I released through my organization PD Movement Lab received over 13,000 views, and that was only with limited promotion inside the U.S.. (You can watch that dance here if you would like.) This time we will have the backing of the top Parkinson’s organizations from different countries across the globe. This project has the chance to inspire many people with Parkinson’s around the world.
Background On The Choreography & Music:
I have chosen the choreography and music for “Ooh Aah!” for a few reasons that I would like to share with you.
1) The choreography for this piece is strong and aggressive. I have chosen this because people with Parkinson’s are often viewed as weak. This is not true. Parkinson’s may affect our bodies, but it cannot touch our spirits. We are strong, and this is especially true when we come together. I want for us to show people our strength.
2) The music for this piece is set to the pounding rhythm of Taiko drums. As a staple in Japanese culture, this style of music pays homage to our hosts: the people of Japan, and their tradition of creating beautiful and powerful art. But, in my mind, the legend behind the creation of the Taiko also has a connection to our experience of Parkinson’s Disease.
In short, the legends goes that…
at a time more distant than human memory” the storm god Susanowo-no-Mikoto left his home on the seas and began to ravage the land. His wild rages so upset his sister Ameterasu Ohmikami (the sun goddess) that she fled to a cave and, rolling a boulder over its entrance, vowed never to show herself again.
The world fell into darkness and devils sprang from their hiding places to roam freely across the earth in its endless night. Knowing that all life was doomed without Ameterasu Ohmikami, the gods of heaven and earth gathered at the cave's mouth. They reasoned. They begged. They threatened. At last, they tried to force the rock from the cave's entrance but Ameterasu Ohmikami would not budge from her refuge. All creation seemed doomed.
Until, Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, a small goddess with a face creased by age and laughter, made her way into the midst of the other gods and declared that she would coax Ameterasu from the cave. The mightier gods looked at the old woman and sneered. Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto smiled back at them, poured out a huge sake barrel, jumped on its head, and began a wild dance.
The loud, hard, frenetic pounding of her feet made a sound unlike any ever heard before. The rhythm was so lively, so infectious that soon the other gods, caught in Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto's revelry, began to dance and sing as well. Music filled the earth and the celebration became so raucous that Ameterasu Ohmikami peeked out from her cave and, seeing the joyful faces, brought her light to the earth again. Thus, Ameterasu Ohmikami's light returned to earth, Susanowo-no-Mikoto was banished, and taiko music was born.
For many of us with Parkinson’s our diagnosis can feel similar to the wrath of a raging storm god. Our reality becomes chaotic, too much to handle, and, like Amaseratu, we flee into isolation and the cave of our own dark thoughts. People may try to beckon us to come out, but often it takes something more.
Everyone has their own path to coming to terms with their Parkinson’s, but the therapeutic power of rhythm, community among other people with the disease, and a willingness to look a little silly are all things that have helped me, and that I am thankful for. The Taiko called Amaseratu out of her cave, and it has the power to bring us out into the open as well.
Overview of the Learning Process:
I have divided “Ooh Aah!” up into four different sections to make it easier to learn:
The first section is the easiest and we perform this in unison (0:58)
The second section requires a small amount of improvisation from each dancer (0:28)
The third section is the most complex and difficult section, with different dancers performing different movements (1:11)
The fourth section begins like the third section with different dancers performing movements, but at the end everyone comes back into unison (1:15)
In total the piece runs 3:58 long.
If you are reading this, you also should have received a group number of 1, 2, or 3. Each group will learn a similar, but different sequence of movements, and will be situated on a different part of the stage.
Each section of the dance will have its own webpage, which will walk you through each piece of each section. Every part of the dance will have an explanation, a demonstration, and a video for you to follow along to. As you follow along with me, you want to mirror my actions, so if I move this way, you move in the same direction.
If I move this way, you move in that direction as well.
When learning each part of the dance you also want to repeat each video as many times as you need to learn the part.
So without further ado, let’s begin.