I found the date of the competition on the WDC website, but WDC's links to the competition website were dead. Google didn't help because, unsurprisingly, there is no English website for the competition. So I emailed the Japanese Dance Council, which coordinates the event, and they promptly sent me an order form that I could use to purchase tickets. That was great, except that I couldn't place the order in advance because it required a furikomi--a bank transfer from a Japanese bank account. I would have to wait to purchase my ticket with yen at the competition.
Today was the day. It was a quick trip on the subway and very short walk to the Nippon Budokan, the arena where the competition took place. (Fun fact: the Budokan was originally built to serve as the judo venue for the 1964 Summer Olympics.) The ticket windows were shuttered and my Japanese vocabulary is very limited, so it took some time, patience and gesticulation to purchase my ticket. I paid 2,500JPY or 27USD for my seat. This was the cheapest ticket and, it seemed, the only type of ticket that they would sell to me. They may have been sold out of other classes of tickets, but once I got in the venue I noticed many empty seats so I think this was a language issue. (This was probably for the best, as floor seats were sold for more than 500USD each!)
As you can see in the below photos, I wasn't the only one sitting in the cheap seats.
|Yulia and Riccardo et al. getting ready for the Paso Doble.|
This was my view from my seat. I think it was slightly better in person than it appears in this snapshot, but I still felt very disengaged from the competition. Most of the pro heats I've watched at home have taken place in relatively small hotel ballrooms that allow for a dancer-audience connection.
I have some mixed feelings about the experience:
- First, it was exciting to see the Standard dancers on such a large floor. The expanse of an arena floor allows the couples to really turn on the gas and travel, making Quickstep and Viennese Waltz, in particular, very exciting to watch. It was interesting that, even with so much space, there were still collisions--an amateur lady took a hard elbow to the face during a Viennese Waltz and a collision between two of the latin pro couples knocked one of the ladies to the ground!
- Second, Latin was difficult to appreciate from a distance. As a style that doesn't travel the floor much and relies heavily on personality and showmanship, I think it's much more fun to watch from the floor or in a smaller venue. Next time, I'll bring binoculars, spring for a more expensive ticket, or just buy the DVD.
- Third, because the program was in Japanese (as it should be), I couldn't identify the couples dancing in the quarter-finals unless I recognized them from a California competition or YouTube. In later rounds, the couples were introduced in Japanese and English, so it wasn't a huge problem.
- Fourth, it was really cold in the Budokan. I wore my coat and gloves the entire night!
All in all, it was a fun evening and an interesting contrast to what we see at the professional level at local competitions back home.