CSR February 2011

The Soft Side of Rock

Stage eases youngsters’ troubles and boosts self-esteem

Utilising everything from rap through songs by Abba, with numbers by Michael Jackson to classical arrangements and traditional Japanese music, several hundred children took to the stage at the Yokohama Kannai Hall on 22 November to compete in the Rock Challenge Japan 2010.

Bringing together the disciplines of dance, drama, music and design, Rock Challenge has spread from Australia to encompass children around the world, with the aim of increasing awareness of social issues and helping youngsters avoid getting into trouble.

On the surface, children in Japan may not appear to experience many of the hardships and threats faced by youngsters in other cultures, but growing up in Japan poses its own challenges, says event producer Michael J Di Stasio. And that is where his organisation comes into the picture.

“Japanese children have stresses just like everyone else and it’s a mistake to think otherwise”, said Di Stasio. “We want to take children who could not reach great heights without help, and get them to that apex.

“We get them to forget their ordinary lives of exams and tests, school playground squabbles and other stresses, by getting them to look at something else”, he said. “The stage can give them the will to go on.

“And, while in places such as South Africa, the issues with which we have to deal are high levels of HIV infection and AIDS among children, here self-esteem and resilience are in short supply”, he explained. “That’s what we want to build”.

This year, no fewer than nine schools and youth organisations took up the challenge—BCCJ were among the sponsors—with each group given eight minutes to present a dance dramatisation of a story set to music that they had put together. They were required to plan, design, choreograph, produce, rehearse and perform that production. The panel of four judges stated that they were deeply impressed at the standard of the performances.The stories ranged from the issue of competition between mankind and nature in Africa (by Columbia International School), to the dreams and ambitions of high-school girls (Kamata Girls’ High School), as well as a distinctive retelling of the Alice in Wonderland tale (Nishimachi International School). The rugby team of Toho Gakuen High School showed they are similarly skilled on stage, while the largest ensemble was from Tokyo International School, which performed Dream to Live,
Live to Dream.

The American School in Japan told a familiar school tale of cliques, while the four young girls from TC Sprout in Nagoya were brilliantly choreographed throughout their routine. The students of Sho Kosugi Tokyo demonstrated their adeptness with staves, back flips and martial arts moves, while the impressive Hana Enterprise crew performed the moves they had taken to the world rap dance competition in the United States.

“When I see the faces of these young people on stage and getting these awards, it makes me optimistic about the future of the human race”, said Steve McClure, one of the judges and a former Japan correspondent for Billboard magazine.

Rock Challenge Japan is searching for sponsors and volunteers to bring 100 high-school students from Wavell School in the UK to perform a dance-dramatisation of The 47 Ronin (Chushingura) in Tokyo in November.
Email: michael@rockchallenge.jp
Website: www.rockchallenge.jp