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Hip hop, pop, ballade and minyo Japanese folk formed the musical backdrops in the Rock Challenge Japan 2009 last week, a dance performance by and for high schoolers.

Soundtracks ranged from Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me” and other contemporary dance music to soran bushi, a minyo favorite, to the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, with some of the performances featuring scenes from dramas “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and James Cameron’s “Titanic,” among others.

It’s really interesting to see so many different kinds of dancing. It was inspiring to see children perform at such depth,” said Australian Derek Brown, whose daughter took part as member of the Tokyo International School team. “I hope it continues next year. It gives children a sense of pride.”

Ten teams — four international schools, four dance schools, a Japanese private high school and a school in Britain — took part in Thursday’s event, which organizer Michael J. Di Stasio plans to hold annually.

The rules call for a five- to eight-minute performance — a mini musical with professional stage sets, including lighting and sound effects — that involves 20 to 120 students. Live music is not allowed, but students can play recorded music.

“Students practice really hard for the event. Through the practice, they work together to build resilience and self-esteem,” De Stasio said at Yokohama Kannai Hall, where the event took place. “They learn teamwork and how to listen to others.”

Rock Challenge, which says it has been recognized by UNESCO and the World Health Organization as one of the world’s best health-education programs, began in Australia in 1980 with the help of volunteers like Di Stasio who are working to promote healthy lives for young people around the world through the performing arts.

The event is now held in seven countries, including the United States, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, in addition to Japan. Rock Challenge Japan was held in 2006, 2008 and this year. Via: JT

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