You’re invited to join in: Japanese Obon Dance returns for CDBF 2017!


In 2011 we introduced a new performance and invited the public to join in the fun: A Japanese Obon, or Bon Odori, Dance. In the years since the Obon Dance grew and spread out in front of the Main Performing Arts Stage. This year we want to see even more dancers!

Think of it as Japanese line dancing, only in a circle instead of lined up side-to-side. Best of all, you don’t need to know any dance moves in advance, and you don’t need to wear any fancy kimonos or traditional outfits. You can, but it’s not required.

Here’s how it works: The members of the Denver Buddhist Temple Minyo Kai dance group, who’ve been leading the Obon, or Bon Odori, dance at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival for 40 years, will lead the dance. They will dance in a small circle in front of the Main Performing Arts Stage, and there will be concentric larger circles surrounding them. We all will dance along these larger circles, and watch the Minyou Kai dancers and follow their every move.

The Minyo dance tradition originated from thousands of dances from Japan’s 47 prefectures, and evolved from ancient kagura and dengaku ritual country folk harvest dances. They celebrate the work or religious and social gatherings of their locale.

The Denver Buddhist Temple Minyo Kai has been performing since the 1960s when it was established by Issei and Nisei (first and second-generation Japanese Americans) who enjoy Japanese folk dancing.

These dances are performed at festivals all over Japan, and in parts of the U.S. where there are large Japanese and Japanese American populations, like around San Francisco or Los Angeles, where you can dance at an Obon festival practically every weekend during the summer, going from community to community. Denver’s always had just the one Obon … until now!

The dancing is an entertaining, interactive cultural experience that’s joyous and a lot of fun, but Bon Odori is particularly meaningful because the dances are a tribute to ancestors and to the recently deceased. You can read about the history of Obon on Wikipedia.

No experience is required — we invited the audience to just come and join the fun and learn some traditional Japanese dance moves!

Here’s “Shiawase Samba,” a crowd favorite, from last year’s Bon Odori at CDBF:


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