Popular dance party bids farewell

Darryl Bank clutches a prop from Japanada III, held in January.
Darryl Bank clutches a prop from Japanada III, held in January.
Photo courtesy of facebook.com
Organizers of Japanada IV huddle around the Japanada flag.
Organizers of Japanada IV huddle around the Japanada flag.

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Japanada IV @ Alfie’s, March 11

“I think seventy per cent of the people don’t know what’s going on, thirty per cent of the people kind of know what’s going on, and that includes us as well—we’re not entirely sure what’s going on,” said Liane Fong, ArtSci ’06, regarding her experiences with the Japanada party series.

Japanada sails off into the sunset at Alfie’s this Saturday night. The “HMS Japanada” marks the fourth and final installment of the successful dance parties, which incorporate low-pretension, high-fun performance art.

“We’re going on the HMS Japanada to go learn from other people, and it’s also I guess indicative of what we’re doing,” Fong said. “We’re all graduating, so it’s like the scattering. We’re going to teach and learn, and bring Japanada to other places.”

“Like a Viking funeral,” adds Darryl Bank, ArtSci ’05.

Japanada was founded last year by Kirk Heron, Darryl Smith, Dean Povinsky (all ArtSci ’05), Marty Harden (ArtSci ’06) and Gord Ozawa (Sci ’06). Fed up with the failure of local bars to support a club scene that didn’t revolve around traditional dance music, they took matters into their own hands.

While Japanada certainly fills a niche in Kingston’s alternative music scene, its organizers hesitate to refer to it as strictly an indie dance party.

“It’s not your typical club music, but it’s definitely stuff you can dance to, and for the most part, you’ll recognize it,” Harden said. “You’ll hear a lot of ’80s pop, Motown, indie dance rock.”

“Good old classic rock ’n roll that you can dance to, good old ’90s songs,” Ozawa grins, warming up for Saturday night by bouncing out of his chair with enthusiasm.

“It’s all the songs you forgot you liked, basically,” Fong adds. “A little bit of everything. And it’s free. That’s really important.”

As a “fictional utopia of dancing and being awesome,” Japanada has a complicated mythological history. In its first installment, Japanada was formed by digging a tunnel from Osaka, Japan to Kingston, creating “the most perfect land in the world.” At the second party, attendees travelled to Planet Japanada on a spaceship fuelled by dancing. January’s Japanada Revolution celebrated the uprising of the people of Planet Japanada against their oppressive conqueror, the Space Pharaoh, and climaxed in the storming of a large bastille made out of cardboard.

The crew of the HMS Japanada promise more surprises this time around.

“At every Japanada, there’s always an event that happens that’s very inclusive. In the second Japanada, it was the arrival of ... a giant spaceship made of tinfoil. ... There will be surprises at this one as well. Surprises, skits, free stuff. That’s another thing we like to do: we like to give away things. It’s all based on us foraging for things, and making them.”

Behind all this whimsy are high spirits and hard work. The “postmodernist” philosophy behind Japanada is about “Livin’ like a dog, havin’ a good time. Andrew WK’s theory [is that] there’s no separation between performer and audience, everyone’s friends here, and if you like things at all, you should come on in,” Bank explained.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of being broke because you spent $50 at the Buck or Two and being dirty because you rolled around in a garbage bin looking for stuff, and hurting yourself, and lifting cardboard,” Fong laughed.

While Japanada’s organizers decided to wrap up the “quadrology,” they hope younger students will create something in a similar tradition.

Fong’s advice is to “Think of the most extreme thing you could ever wanna do, and then do it ... But seriously, that’s what Japanada was! It’s like, ‘Hmm, I’m not having a good time, so I’m going to make my own good time.’ Instead of sitting on your ass complaining about things, go and do it, and whatever happens, there’s someone out there who wants to do it with you.”

However, aspiring dance revolutionaries should be warned about the possible legal hazards of their vision.

“At Japanada 2, they got all these old computer monitors that people were throwing away ... and had them all on their back porch. ... Their neighbours called the police, all suspect, ‘Why do you have so many computer monitors on the back porch?’ So the police came and questioned them and when they explained that ‘Oh, it’s an art project,’ it was okay,” Fong said.

“Usually that’s our blanket excuse for any questioning: ‘It’s an art project’.”

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