Sunday, September 05, 2010

Visual style of parapara

Summary: This post lists the rules which give parapara its distinctive look. The rules are described on a level of abstraction where they can be applied to pole dancing.

Parapara is a japanese dance style which emphasizes hands. Various organizations publish official parapara routines for dance songs popular in Japan. Everyone dances the same way. Some dance clubs hold parapara evenings, where people gather together to dance the song routines, which they have practised among friends or at home from official videos.

In parapara, the primary goal is to synchronize moves with music. Dancers do similar moves when similar musical patterns are repeated in the song. The moves closely reflect the rhythmic structure of the song.

This maximal synchronization has been achieved by emphasizing choreography for the whole song. Each move is precisely timed, for example "the next full sweep will last for 4 beats".

The moves are very simple. Simplicity is a priorization choice. It enables rhythmic synchronization, since simple moves can be done quickly. It also enables emphasis on routine for the whole song, as dancers don't need to practise individual moves. The moves don't need strength or flexibility. Speed requires some practise. You may not be immediately able to reproduce all moves from a video, but when someone shows them in slow motion face-to-face, not a single move poses any challenge.

Parapara moves have lots of straight lines, round swirls and symmetry. Usually either the moves are symmetric along vertical or horizontal axis, or they are followed by 'mirror moves' which complement symmetry.

Finally, parapara moves have the same clarity as a single beat of a drum. Sometimes you can see if a move is correct or wrong, just like you can hear extra beats among repeating drum pattern.

In parapara, human body becomes a visual rhythmic instrument which complements musical rhythmic instruments.

It is a mystery for me, why most dancers ignore the rhythmic struture of their songs. It seems to be a kind of 'dog whistle' which is hard to see for some, while for others it is an elephant in the room.

For example in SubTV's Dance program, Turo Kankaanpää's dance moves are well synced to the rhythm, and one commenter notices it. However, the judges didn't comment on it at all, even if one commented positively about the immersion and appeal it created. In Dance, the first round can result in 3 outcomes: rejection, pass or a second try in group choreography round to get more data. Turo went to the choreography round.

In some dance traditions, sync is so secondary that the song can be just switched to another at will. This would be unthinkable in parapara. Also when talking about parapara, for example Paula doesn't get it:
Paraparaa tanssitaan yleensä eurobeatin, trancen tai muun jumputuksen tahtiin, mutta oikeastaan sitä voi tanssia mihin tahansa rytmikkääseen musiikkiin. Paraparassa ei ole tarkoituksena sheikkata peppua ja näyttää seksikkäältä - päinvastoin! Tarkoituksena on oikeastaan vain heilua puolelta toiselle ja käsillä viuhoa sarjan mukaan.

What would it mean to apply the rules of parapara for pole dancing?
  • Search for positions like the half flag or pole sit, where hands and feet are free to do parapara-style patterns.
  • Practise how to do easy moves with accurate timing (for example a fireman spin for 4 beats).
  • Practise how to do a series of quick transitions between easy positions.
  • DON'T practise sexy & lusty move from striptease tradition as they are not in line with parapara's abstract & flirty body language.
  • DON'T waste time in practising individual difficult tricks.

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