May 22, 2011

The Rockabilly Dancers of Yoyogi Koen

The rockabilly dancers of Yoyogi Koen are the stuff of Tokyo lore, but quite curiously, it's virtually impossible to find recent information on them (from a respected source). The basic facts: there is a group of aging greasers and slightly younger women who, every Sunday, dress up like extras in a Japanese remake of Rebel Without a Cause, gather near the Harajuku entrance of Yoyogi Koen, and dance/pose their way through old rockabilly records.

New York Times article from 1988 describes the situation thusly: "Spectators head toward Yoyogi Park at the end of Omote-Sando, where young Japanese enact a weekly ritual. They bring rock music and costumes -1950's bouffant skirts, denim jackets - and dance in disciplined, well-rehearsed routines, for a bemused crowd." All you have to do is substitute "young" for "middle-aged"; they've grown up in the last 25 years.

This isn't an inclusive group; I've heard that they frown upon tourists and regular folk who try to join in on the dancing. (Photo-taking and videotaping are thankfully tolerated.) But many bring their wives, girlfriends, and even their kids.

I love the coordinated leopard print of these two siblings. When your family Sunday consists of your norm-ignoring dad greasing his hair back to go off and dance in public and you wearing a leopard-print poodle skirt with saddle shoes to join him, your teenage rebellion would probably mean dressing like a bore and staying in all weekend. 

I'll bet all the kids in this boy's class are scared of him.
I got to see a rare group meeting, led by the boss seen in the second photo. One of the items on the agenda was an announcement that one of their own had gotten married. On cue, a couple of kids came out, small bouquets in hand.
They don't make biker boots like they used to, so you just have to keep taping up the old ones.

The ecstatic photographer on the right was just as colorful as the dancers.

A straight-laced schnauzer wearing a backpack stands, transfixed.

This woman was so in character as a greaser's moll. Even her face was made up like an old-school actress'.

I'd like to believe this man simply wanted to write "Levels", not "Rebels". Talk about ruining the effect.

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