The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Elegant dance, attracting people beyond limits!
Aiming to become the number-one dance couple in Japan

Mr. Haruki Fujimori / Ms. Yuko Sugiyama

The WASEDA Ballroom Dance Club is a big club with more than 120 members and the largest university Sports Dance club in Japan. Most of the members started Competitive Ballroom Dancing after entering WASEDA, and the featured pair of this issue, Haruki Fujimori and Yuko Sugiyamaare no exception. Yuko recalls, "I was never number-one in sports, study, or anything else so I thought I should reach the top at something. As I wanted to do something with little handicap for a beginner, I happened to visit a demonstration for freshmen by the Ballroom Dance Club, saw seniors dancing in beautiful dresses, and thinking this was it, immediately made a decision to join up." Her partner, Haruki says, "Actually, my brother is a Competitive Ballroom Dancer. When I was in high school, I thought that my brother returning home with his hair set was not that cool, but when I saw him dancing in a contest, he was so cool that I wanted to dance, too."

Dance attracting all the people at the venue

It is not easy to dance to grab the attention of people. "At training camp, we get up at six and do physical training and basic practice throughout the day. We can only practice with our partner at night and go to bed at one in the morning. Rules and order in the club are strict, but as we make it under such limitations, we can see something new," Yuko says. Haruki adds, "The seniors haze us, saying, 'Go beyond your limits!' but I didn't feel it was too unreasonable. Looking at seniors, I could understand that becoming a better dancer would mean becoming a better man, and I had an ardent desire to dance better." Recently, they have been in a position to instruct juniors and got a new perspective. Listening to their stories, the world of Competitive Ballroom Dancing sounds like that of the sporting spirit, but both of them always smile and look elegant. "Dancers are artists, so regardless of how hard practice is, seniors have hammered into us to always have a smile," Yuko smiles. Guys become good at escorting women. "Initially, my heart used to beat fast when senior female members helped me as partners, but now, I'm used to it and can escort ladies naturally," Haruki says, smiling.

They are partners to spend their time of youth at the closest distance. How do they feel about each other? "As captain of the team, Haruki always thinks of other people, is trusted by seniors, juniors and even graduates. I'm happy to be his partner, but don't call us a couple, as some misunderstand us. I have a steady boyfriend!" she laughs. Haruki responds, "She is clever and smart, but honest and impish, too. She is a 'hot' woman. She always helps me as she gives good advice for competitions."

The Fujimori-Sugiyama pair remained number-one among student pairs of the same year. They had the natural confidence to win at the All Japan Student Grades Dance Sport Championships, but were actually ranked second. The winners were the Yamada-Akiyama pair of WASEDA University. "I'm happy that our peers won the championship, but I still regret we couldn't be number-one in Japan. Yamada and Akiyama are very eager to practice more than anyone else, so their steady efforts led to victory. I am really motivated for our final year."

Toward their last competition in the fall, they were very motivated to be the number-one pair in Japan. At the 113th Tokyo University Ballroom Dancing Championships on November 3, the Sugiyama-Fujimori pair became champions in the Waltz and Foxtrot categories. They will surely compete with the Yamada-Akiyama pair at the All Japan Championships to be number-one.

"W" by dance

Sugiyama-Fujimori pair dancing with smiles and passion hidden at the bottom of their hearts

We have to win! Our rivals in the same year at WASEDA, the Yamada-Akiyama pair

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Mr. Haruki Fujimori (right)

Born in Los Angeles, America in 1990. 4th year, School of Creative Science and Engineering. Graduated from WASEDA Jitsugyo High School. Started Competitive Ballroom Dancing when he saw his brother dancing, who won the All Japan Student Dance Contest after entering university. "I heard later on that my mother was involved in Competitive Ballroom Dancing when she was a student." Studies environmental purification materials at the Department of Resources and Environmental Engineering. Plans to continue his studies at Graduate School. "In the future, I want to continue dancing as my hobby while working on research."

Ms. Yuko Sugiyama (left)

Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1989. 4th year, School of Commerce. Graduated from Girls Division, Nanzan High School. "In Competitive Ballroom Dancing, all the guys around me have their hair slicked back, so when I see other hairstyles they seem funny (laughing)." Her favorite food include kurikinton (sweetened mixture of boiled and mashed chestnuts,) warabimochi (bracken-starch pastry,) ikuradon (bowl of rice topped with salmon roe) and misonikomi udon (noodles boiled with miso).