Many people claim that they can’t dance, but parapara isn’t your average dance style. With its unique moves, music, and community, parapara may be easier to tackle that most people think. So what is it anyway? Where did it come from? And how can you get started?
WHAT IS PARAPARA?
Parapara is a type of Japanese, choreographed dancing that focuses on upper body moves, using arms and hands, while mostly limiting footwork to a simple, side-to-side step set to the beat. Routines are set to certain types of dance music and each song features it’s own distinct set of moves. Parapara is most commonly performed as a group dance and is closely tied to the Japanese club and pop culture scenes. In the West however, paralists—people who dance parapara—are often more spread out, so it’s not uncommon to find solo paralists who favor gatherings at Japanese-influenced events. Anime conventions and Japanese culture festivals are a common favorite. Parapara comes in a few distinct varieties determined by the types of music it’s danced to:
- parapara: Set to eurobeat and seldom given its own distinction. Characterized by fun, light-hearted moves.
- techpara: Set to hyper techno. Often characterized by harsher, less symmetrical sets of moves.
- yodore/dance pop: Set to dance pop music. Moves share similarities to both parapara and techpara.
- torapara/trapara: Set to epic trance and other lyrically driven trance music. This style was short-lived and quickly fell out of vogue.
- maniac/oripara: Parapara routines that have been created by individual paralists or groups but are not considered “official” choreographies. Most routines that are considered “official” are either featured on a commercial video release or have been choreographed by one of the major groups or events in Tokyo such as SEF, Starfire, 9loveJ, B1 Dynamite, etc.
WHERE IS IT FROM?
Born in the land of the rising sun, parapara is believed to have started in Japan in the mid to late 80′s. Accounts are somewhat hazy, but best estimates place the origins of parapara at a discothèque in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. Reportedly, the discothèque staff began creating basic choreography to Hi-NRG music—the predecessor to modern eurobeat—in efforts to draw in new patrons. Patrons began learning these new dances, and as they grew in popularity, the dance style began spreading to other discothèques throughout the region.
This initial birth of parapara and the years immediately following it are what are commonly referred to as the first “boom.” Since this initial boom, the popularity of parapara has come and gone in waves, much like any other lasting pop-culture trend. As video and Internet technology have progressed alongside the parapara movement, access to this unique dance style has slowly but surely spread into other parts of East Asia, and eventually into the West. It’s thanks to this migration that a community for parpara fans now exists outside of Japan.
HOW TO GET STARTED!
Now that you are familiar with the “What?” and “Where?”, the next logical step is “How can I get started?” The most common method for beginning paralists to learn new dances is to learn from other paralists or by following along with parapara videos. Many online retailers, particularly those based in Japan, are a great place to find videos for purchase. If you decide to buy a parapara video though, be sure that you have the means to play it. Many DVDs purchased from overseas require special hardware or software to play. If your budget is a little tight don’t worry! There are plenty of great places to learn online such as from dance troupes like EKS-D or videos found on various streaming media sites.
Many paralists—even well seasoned ones—sometimes find it easier to learn from videos that have been “flipped” or “reversed” so that the image is like looking in a mirror. Beginners may also find the fast pace of parapara a bit intimidating at first, so sometimes it helps to slow down the video and learn a new dance section by section, speeding it up as you become more comfortable with the moves. We find that VLC Media Player—a free piece of software—is a particularly useful tool to slow down videos and achieve the “mirrored” effect.
Parapara dances are split into 3 main parts: The Intro—which corresponds to the musical bridge at the beginning of the song, Lettered “Melos”—which correspond to the different parts of the song’s verses or melodies, and the Sabi—which corresponds to the song’s chorus. Most parapara routines follow a repeating pattern of Intro→A Melo→B Melo→Sabi. Some dances will occasionally feature a choreographed Lead-In section which appears one time at the beginning of the dance, however there are no set rules regarding when a Lead-In should appear. Often this is something decided by the choreographer based on the structure of the corresponding song. A Lead-In may also be added by an individual dancer depending on the edit/mix of the song they are using, or the dancer’s personal preferences.
Once you have some videos in hand, or paralist friend to learn from, it’s simply a matter of practice and repetition before the moves start coming more naturally. Reviewing your dancing in a mirror or video, or asking a friend for feedback can often help you achieve the personal look and style you are after. So get out there, get dancing, and ask yourself, “CAN YOU FEEL THE BEAT?”