G'Day Japan! / Manga and Anime / ParaPara

If you’ve been into a game arcade anytime in the past fifteen years or so, you’ve probably heard of Dance Dance Revolution. A dance based arcade game with a euro beat and a focus on fancy footwork, DDR is a great way to work up a sweat and get some cardio in. There are even miniature versions of this game, so you can play at home. But they’re pretty pricey, and actually, the game holds its origins in a similar Japanese dance fad that’s at least as much fun – plus you don’t need a giant clunky machine to enjoy it.

ParaPara is a dance fad that’s been coming and going since probably around the early 80s. Like DDR, it’s danced mainly to Eurobeat, and it’s great fun. Pretty much all you need to be able to do it is a sense of rhythm and a heap of enthusiasm.

‘Love & Joy’ is a hugely popular ParaPara routine  –  ©Dread Joker

Despite basically being disco music, Eurobeat is generally kind of hard for the average person to dance to, but ParaPara is simple enough that most people can enjoy it easily. While DDR focuses mainly on stepwork, ParaPara instead features symmetrical-ish, rhythmic arm movements, usually paired with a repetitive side-to-side stepping motion. This lets you move your whole body without getting too confused trying to do fancy things with legs and arms at the same time. It began in Japan in the early 80s, and in the decades since, has gone through several periods of immense popularity – not only within Japan, but all over the world!

Rather than freestyle, ParaPara mostly involves dancing routines. Popular routines are shared, and become ‘official’. In the early years, ParaPara mostly spread by word of mouth. Many of the popular routines from this period have been lost, or are very hard to find. In recent years, though, routines have been shared by video. Over the years, there have been many celebrity ParaPara groups, whose routines, which were shown in their music videos, have been copied time and time again.

Video demonstrating how to do a popular ParaPara routine  –   ©sebofficial’s channel

Although ParaPara is music-oriented and since the 90s routines have been released in music videos, most official ParaPara groups don’t release original music. Mostly, ParaPara routines are created for existing Eurobeat songs, or a Eurobeat mash-up is created for a popular song of another genre (for instance, the Eurobeat version of ‘Mickey Mouse March’). Japanese language covers of popular Eurobeat songs are also common.

Thanks to YouTube, it’s now easier than ever to learn how to dance ParaPara. As well as music videos, which are lots of fun to watch, you can also find tutorial videos showing how to do various official ParaPara routines. In addition to this, ParaPara fans often record videos of themselves dancing the routines – or sometimes even make up original routines of their very own, which are known as ‘OriPara’.

ParaPara fans performing the routine for ‘Love & Joy’  –  ©FOO Dancers

Of course, ParaPara is easy to practice and dance on your own, but it’s a lot more fun to dance with friends. Most official ParaPara groups have at least three members, and the dance is synchronised, kind of like line dancing. If you want to dance ParaPara you can have as many dancers as you want – it doesn’t matter if your group is big or small, as long as everyone is having fun. Solo ParaPara is pretty cool, but dancing with a group can look really impressive, especially if everyone has a good sense of rhythm! Also, you’re not strictly restricted to Eurobeat – ParaPara can also be danced to hyper techno (TechPara) or trance music (TraPara).

TechPara performed at a manga convention  –  ©Nen0ni

Unfortunately, ParaPara is currently in a ‘glacial period’, and not much has been happening in the ParaPara world for a while. But ParaPara is so fun, and so easy, and so unique, that it’s probably only a matter of time until its popularity picks up again, as it has many times before.