Moving Through Suite J-Town

Ayana Yonesaka

It's truly been a joyful experience thus far, building Suite J-town from the base up, together with encouraging mentors and fellow artists. 

Movement Exercise with Seniors

Movement Exercise with Seniors

Back when I sat down with Brenda, Mark, and Marissa for the first time in October 2014, the project was simply a skeleton. I had no clue how my brain and body was going to contribute-- all I could assure them was that I live to move and create. 

So where is this "joy" I feel coming from exactly?

Well, by now, Suite J-town has engulfed my brain and body. The project was designed that way. It was an absolute necessity for us to first understand what and who exactly is Japantown.

Brenda filling in the 'Daruma' 's left eye. Traditionally you wish or pray while filling it, and when you've achieved it you fill in the right eye.

Brenda filling in the 'Daruma' 's left eye. Traditionally you wish or pray while filling it, and when you've achieved it you fill in the right eye.

For some J-tells who grew up in the community, it was obvious. For some, like myself, it was something to be discovered. Discovering and connecting to the soul of the community was like seeing Japantown in a whole new light. And there was no better way for me to see and feel the warm light, beaming from the people of Japantown, then to move with them. 

Through the immersion process, I had the opportunity to teach short movement/dance sequences to members of four facilities; Kokoro Assisted Living, Kimochi Senior Home, and Nihonmachi Little Friends preschool at two locations. There, I witnessed:

  • 90 year old Oba-chans (grandmas) and Oji-chans (grandpas) standing up and sitting back down with confidence. 
  • 4 year old hapa kids skipping and laughing while they follow the leader.
  • Little boys and girls showing me their songs and the dance routine that goes with it with big smiles.
  • The staff members at Senior Homes also following and enjoying stretching with the elders. 

To me, movement itself is the source of my joy, and I cannot help but exude it. So when I move with others, and I can feel their happiness in the air, our energies collide and my joy is then magnified! I can just feel it in my body. 

Which is why it has been such a joyful experience. Each and every opportunity to move I've had with Japantown has stirred up strong positive feelings inside of me. 

Now, I am creating a final movement piece for our final event, "A Walk Through Time", that will hopefully bring smiles to everyone who is dancing, watching, and absorbing the energy. It is based on Japanese traditional Bon-odori, and is choreographed so that anyone can learn and join in at anytime. 

After absorbing all the positivity from the community via moving, seeing their bodies and faces light up, and connecting with them by feeling joyful together, my energy to keep creating for Suite J-Town is at 200%.

Now that is the power of synergy.