Performers from the Diamond Dance Project, a dance studio near Kenai, were inspired to create an entire concert based on one dance troupe’s trip to Kenai’s sister city, Akita, Japan.
Last summer, an all-female dance group from the studio was invited to perform hip-hop in the sister city. While in Japan, the seven dancers performed in a concert alongside a local high school dance troupe and represented Kenai on a float in the city’s annual Kanto Festival, a summer festival where participants balance long poles, holding lanterns, on their palms, foreheads, shoulders or lower backs.
Since returning home, the owners and directors of Diamond Dance Project Crystal and Jessie Soyangco have been hard at work creating and performing an original dance concert inspired by the trip to Japan, specifically the Kanto Festival.
“The biggest thing was at the lantern festival that we were a part of, there were tons of taiko drummers from little tiny kids to adults,” Jessie Soyangco said. “They weren’t all playing the same beat, but when they passed you when they were in front of you, you could distinctly hear their drumming.”
Dubbed “Taiko,” the concert debuted March 24 and may return with an encore show.
“Everyone responded very well to it and they were very receptive,” Crystal Soyangco said. “We had a lot of great reviews and requests to do an encore performance. We don’t have anything scheduled at the moment but just the feedback has been amazing.”
While the studio plans out the possibility of an encore performance, residents can find DVDs of the performance at the studio.
The performance featured much more than just hip-hop. Contemporary, lyrical, ballet, jazz, tap and even salsa dancing were all incorporated into the diverse concert.
“A lot of people think that we just do hip-hop, but we’re very diverse,” Jessie Soyangco said. “We’re a nationally ranked studio.”
“I think we were able to do a little bit of everything,” Crystal Soyangco said.
Crystal Soyangco said she didn’t know how the community would receive the performance.
“We never know how the audience is going to receive things,” she said. “We’re still working on building our audience too and we never know how people are going to respond to it. Usually, when people hear dance they think dance recital, and we’re like ‘no, no, no. It’s a concert.’ We just want to make sure the community knows how grateful we are. We thought it was an overwhelmingly good experience.”
The Soyangcos said they strive to do new things with each performance. This most recent concert was no different. Instead of using the Kenai Central High School auditorium, the studio opted for Soldotna High’s auditorium, which Crystal says hasn’t been used for a dance performance in a long time.
“People asked us why we used that instead of Kenai,” she said. “Even some of the dancers were a little apprehensive about it, but they all said they really liked performing there.”
The Soldotna High auditorium has catwalks that hang in the air, which the studio decided to work into the show.
“We strive for newer things in this community and something different,” Jessie Soyangco said. “This time around we had dancers 40 feet up in the air.”
“Everyone was like ‘ooooh’,” Crystal Soyangco said. “It was one of the biggest things we’ve done, being up that high. I commend our dancers for being up there that high.”
The dancers who braved the catwalk were the same who traveled thousands of miles last summer to visit Kenai’s sister city in Japan.
The studio’s season starts in the fall, but they perform all year round. Their next performance will be a free show at the May 18 Wednesday in the Park at Soldotna Creek Park.