ParaPara is a form of Japanese club dancing with your hands that is danced to a genre of music called Eurobeat. It is mainly danced in the clubs and discos in Japan, but people in other countries often start their own groups and dance with locals. Depending on the lyrical contents and song melody, one is able to learn different choreography. The majority of parapara choreography is taught by choreographers from the club events in Japan. Although there are thousands of routines, not every Eurobeat song has a routine, however. In the clubs, because one is in a circle, it is possible to learn by others by doing 真似パラ, even if one does not know the routines.
At the time of writing, no one has ever published a book about ParaPara in real life because no one is interested in spending money to read about ParaPara. However, I hope this document can be used as a citable source of information. This document does not mention the glacial periods because they were non-boom times. The author of this document also believes that there was a 4th boom. Last updated September 20th, 2013. Written by John Bohne.
ParaPara supposedly started in the late 1980s at high-class discos during Japan's bubble era. People dressed in black suits would teach people dances because there were no para videos back then at places like Aoyama King & Queen and Maharaja Azabujyuuban. 1 It is very difficult to learn some of these routines these days because the routines are very hard to find. Some of these routines can be found on Kanazawa King & Queen and Dougenzaka though. Which clubs made certain routines during this era is largely unknown because it is not recorded.
The term wangan (kanji: 湾岸) mainly describes the choreography that came from the clubs around Tokyo Bay around 1993.2 Some of these clubs include Eden Roc and Maharaja Azabujyuuban. The choreography is very hard to find like 1st Boom videos, but it is slightly easier. I like to think of wangan in terms of CDs however in order to determine which routines are wangan. The latter half of Eurobeat Fantasy and That's Eurobeat, Super Eurobeat 1-49, and Maharaja Night Hi-NRG Revolution 1-9ish are usually categorized as wangan routines. The most important wangan video is Venus Cafe 湾岸王 Special. It features many wangan routines filmed by Wanganou (湾岸王, Wangan King) dancing in his house. It is so special because some of those routines cannot be found on other videos. Unfortunately, many of the wangan dancers have retired from ParaPara. There are currently very few club events in Japan that play wangan songs, so it is a treat for the wangan lovers when they are played.
This is the era where many routines come from. Whenever I think of 2nd Boom, I think of Xenon, Twinstar, King & Queen, Maharaja etc. These were the major clubs back then during the 2nd Boom and they made the most choreography. During this period, Avex Trax, an independent music label in Japan who produces Super Eurobeat, released one of the first ParaPara videos ever to clubs on March 21, 1994 called ParaPara Kyouten 0 (パラパラ教典 0). It features 40 songs from the 2nd boom era. Most of these routines are still danced today. If you go by CDs, the whole 2nd boom lasted from about Super Eurobeat 40 to the late 70s or 80s. In regards to maniac dances, the latter half of the boom featured some from Hibiya Radio City, Yokohama Maharaja, and Tottori Eleven.
The cause of this boom has largely been credited to the appearance of Takuya Kimura on SMAPxSMAP, which is a television program, dancing to "Night Of Fire" / Niko and "Mickey Mouse March" (Eurobeat Version) / Domino. During this period, with Xenon closed, Twinstar continued to make routines. 9LoveJ and velfarre also started making their own routines during this period. The popularity of this period early on was amplified by gal-culture as well. In regards to commercial videos, Avex and other competitors like Victor and Digibeat started releasing regular commercial parapara videos that featured routines for songs from their respective Eurobeat CDs. Some of these series include: ParaPara Paradise, ParaPara Panic!, and Euroパラパラ How. ParaPara Paradise was the most popular series in regards to sales and featured an idol group called ParaPara Allstars (PPA). The group originally consisted of Richie, Maki, Miho, Satoko, Tomomi, and Ryoko. At the time, Richie had been in many Twinstar videos and Satoko was featured in many 9LoveJ videos. Maki had been featured in Twinstar Akapara (赤パラ) circa 1995 as well. Some people still regard them as idols today. After Twinstar closed in 2003, the most popular event was SEF at velfarre during this boom until it closed at the end of 2006, ending this boom. During this period, maniac dances also were made. Some of the more popular club events were Medusa and Joy.
I call this the commercial video boom. It can be historically proven as the numbers of videos sold don't lie. It begins in 2005 with the releases of Gazen ParaPara!! (俄然パラパラ！！) and We Love TechPara (WLTP) and ends with Avex stopping the release of commercial ParaPara videos. The height of the boom could either be considered to be 2007 when Farm Records was releasing ParaPara DVDs, or circa 2009 when the ani-para boom reached its height. Circa 2008, many ParaPara routines were being choreographed to eurobeat remixes of anime songs. The dances were mainly choreographed by 9LoveJ. When the ani-para boom ended in 2010, Avex stopped releasing videos and 9LoveJ removed ParaPara from their event altogether. At the time of writing, there have been no major commercially released ParaPara videos since then. In regards to maniac events, Joy and TMD still choreographed until circa 2008, when they stopped altogether.
The term "official" in the parapara world describes routines made by certain clubs/choreography groups in Japan. A non-exhaustive list of official club events are Starfire, SEF, 9LoveJ, and Twinstar. These routines are danced and learned by most people in the community. In a response to official routines, people have made their own routines in Japan called "maniac" routines. This movement started in the late 1990s with clubs like Hibiya Radio City and Tottori Eleven choreographing their own routines. In addition to the club events mentioned, other famous maniac club events that existed were Medusa, Area, Joy, AXOS, Bless, and TMD. As of 2008, club events in Japan have not choreographed many maniac routines and this movement has basically stopped. However, some official club events like Starfire and SEF still go on today. Some paralists in the community still prefer maniac to official routines though and continue to have small events like Ravenous that play songs which have maniac dances to them.
There are a few choreographer groups that have stood out in the history of ParaPara.
Shishou Gundan (師匠軍団) is a long-running group of choreographers that has had many members. It is unclear when the group first began, but it is assumed to be in the early 1990s. The team had the most impact in Twinstar where they choreographed most of the ParaPara routines. There were many members in the 1990s, but the most famous members were Gori Shishou (ゴリ師匠), Arai Shishou (新井師匠), Morita Shishou (堀田師匠), Haru Shishou (ハル師匠), and Yan Shishou (ヤン師匠). Their real names in that order, with the exception of Yan Shishou (ヤン師匠) because his real name is unknown, are Keita Fukaya, Takashi Arai, Taisuke Hotta, and Haruki Takahashi. All of these members listed appear in Twinstar club videos at least once. As of 2011, however, the only members of Shishou Gundan (師匠軍団) are Banchou (番長), Ryohei (りょうへい), and Inocchi (いのっち), who are all currently choreographers of Starfire.3 Their real names are Yoshihiro Yamada, Ryohei Yamaoka, and Katsuyoshi Inomata.
T-RREX is also a long-running official choreographer group. The initials stand for Twinstar, Rie, Richie, Xenon which refers to when T-RREX was started. However, the most famous and long-running members are Ryohei (りょうへい), Inocchi (いのっち), and Shintaro (しんたろう). They mainly make choreography for the club event StarFire these days because Twinstar closed in 2003. As of 2010, Shintaro (しんたろう) has not been active in the ParaPara community though and does not dance ParaPara much anymore. It is unclear if Shintaro (しんたろう) is still in T-RREX.
Team SEF is another long-running official choreographer group. They strictly choreograph for the club event SEF. The name "Team SEF" wasn't popular until the SEF Gold club videos were first released around 2004. The members around that time were Ichi, Omami, Rena, Yano, Shingo, Kahori, and possibly Satoko. After velfarre closed in 2006, almost all of the members were replaced when the SEF event changed names to SEF Deluxe. The members as of 2013 are Uga, Masae, Manami, Rumine, Kaihei, Kouki, and Kei.4
In any given week, there are multiple ParaPara events in Japan. A typical ParaPara club event begins the first 30 minutes by playing either Italo-Disco, Dance, or other genres besides Eurobeat. Usually there are not many people that come during the first 30 minutes, so this is why it is done. After the first 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the number of people in the club, danceable music starts. Depending on the event, the first danceable songs played are different. For example, if one was at an event where the DJs played only Eurobeat songs from the 1990s, then the first songs would be from 1990-1991. If one were at a more official/modern event like SEF or StarFire, the songs would probably start around 1998-1999, when the 3rd ParaPara boom began. In most events, the songs have some sort of progression by year released, continuing until the end of the club event. Some events however just play whatever they feel like and may start playing songs from 2006 for example. There are also some events that play Techno as well as Eurobeat. In these events, there are rarely people that dance both ParaPara and TechPara. Most people sit out one or the other, depending on what routines they know. At most club events, there is also a lesson (講習会) where new ParaPara routines are taught. This is a very important part of a club event because without club lessons, there might not be new ParaPara routines. A lesson is usually taught in 15 or 20 minutes. During a lesson, the new routine is danced first with music. After that, with the help of a commentator to give counts, the dancer slowly dances each part of the routine in order to help people learn it without music. After this is done, the routine is danced for a final time with music. After the lesson, there are two or three more sets of songs played until the event ends.
Club videos are an important part of ParaPara, but their importance has changed over the years. The first ParaPara known club video to ever be released was released by Avex Trax as a promotional VHS on March 21st, 1994 called ParaPara Kyouten 0 (パラパラ教典 0).5 After that, many club videos were released as people were not able to film lessons in the 1990s. They also became highly desirable commodities to some people because lessons were almost impossible to find before 2004-2005 and many different dancers perform routines. It is important to note though that these videos are not sold commercially and are generally only distributed at only one event, which makes them extremely rare and impossible for foreigners to see. Because of these reasons, random people began to sell club videos, mainly DVD copies, online on auction websites like Yahoo! Auctions Japan and Mbok.jp. A full series of SEF Gold for example would usually sell for about 5,000 yen while a much longer series like Xenon would sell for 9,000 yen or more. As of 2009 however, with the decline of ParaPara, this has basically stopped. However, a project that began on March 9th, 2013 on YouTube called ParaPara Open Source Project has attempted to solve the problem of the rarity of club videos by uploading them to the public.6 Club videos released since 2009 have become less and less important as some people have began to upload lessons mainly to video-sharing websites like YouTube. Because of this, club events like StarFire have at least one routine on a club video that has never been taught as a lesson. In the 2010s, club videos are not released as much anymore either with new DVDs only being distributed by StarFire and SEF every 5-6 months. This is a sharp difference from 1994-1995 when there over a hundred club videos released across Japan in only two years.
Starting around 2007, many people filmed videos of themselves dancing ParaPara routines on the social video website. This made it very easy to find routines for new people; however, record companies like Avex did not like it. Avex famously took down many videos off YouTube because of copyright reasons during the 4th boom when they were releasing commercial videos. The question I pose now is if they really have the authority to take down the videos. Do ParaPara videos really fall into fair use? No one has ever ruled on this specific case, but it would be interesting to know an outcome. At the time of writing, YouTube continues to be a place of video sharing among paralists. YouTube makes it free to host videos without the cost of bandwidth so it is a popular place.
Avex Trax is currently the largest independent music label in Japan and owns the Super Eurobeat series. Because Avex Trax owns the Super Eurobeat series, it owns the licenses for almost all of the Eurobeat songs that have ParaPara dances to them, which means that it is difficult to dance ParaPara anywhere without their permission. The songs on Super Eurobeat are only licensed in Japan, however, which means that the majority of Eurobeat cannot be played internationally. Avex does not want to pay the Eurobeat labels for international licensing, yet they wonder why Eurobeat is in such decline of Eurobeat. Without international Eurobeat licensing, there will never be an international para boom because without it, Eurobeat cannot be played on international radio or television. It's business, isn't it?
This project's purpose was to make ParaPara club videos and other rare videos more accessible to the public. This initiative was started by the author of this document and is currently on YouTube.
Before this project, it was very difficult to get club videos. There were many video hoarders who would only give them to certain people they called "friends." I had almost no ParaPara friends who were willing to send me videos. Not many other people did either. Can you imagine how hard it was for a beginner to get ParaPara videos? Before 2009, I didn't even know Japanese so it was next to impossible to get club videos because you could not talk to the Japanese that had them. Because of the lack of video availability, it is no surprise that it is so difficult to start a new parapara boom in Japan. This problem was not limited to Japan however and spanned the globe. My opinion is that ParaPara should not be about who you know, but what you can know. How else can you learn routines without videos?
I personally think this mentality of video hoarding began because people wanted to make secretly money off of them. People who wanted to monetize off of this video hoarding placed DVD copies of videos on auction sites like Yahoo Japan and mbok. They would charge as much as 5000 yen or more for one series, depending on the rarity and how large the series was, with XENON and JOY being the most expensive. This and receiving videos from friends were the only two ways to get club videos. So, club videos were "closed source" meaning the sources for routines featured on videos like Twinstar, SEF, and Starfire were not accessible to the public. This selling of club videos doesn't happen much today as it did in 2008-2009, but it still exists today.
Personally, obtaining club videos for me was very frustrating. The last rare club videos I obtained as of writing was in December 2011. It is now August 8th, 2013. No one should have to wait for videos that long. During that timeframe and even before 2011, I always received the lamest excuses like "I'm too busy" or "I don't have a DVD burner." I even offered to buy that person a DVD Burner and he still would not respond to me. I also traded some videos before in 2011 to another person, sent him my address, and he still hasn't sent the videos. No one should have to buy or trade club videos to see them. No one should have to wait that long to receive videos either. Knowledge should be free. Video hoarding is wrong.
Since it was so difficult to get these videos and costly, I went along with this mentality of not sharing. It wasn't until my second to last semester in college that I realized that this was wrong. I met someone that taught me so much and changed my opinions about many things. He introduced me to open source projects like AOSP (Android Open Source Project) and other custom ROM projects. I realized that open source projects are the only way that I'm going to learn new things. I don't have to wait for big projects to program, but can program any time I want to and help people out. Throughout the course of the semester, said person helped me out a lot too. He doesn't even know I do ParaPara, so he did not tell me to do this project if you are wondering. I also realized that you need to make sacrifices in life to help other people. I want to help people like my friend helped me. If it were not for him, I might not have ever started this project.
While the project may never be "finished", May 2013 was the time that I uploaded the most. I would be video rendering while awake and uploading 24/7. The reasons that I chose to do this project on YouTube are that YouTube has unlimited cloud storage and it is an international website. I can upload almost any file I want to without having to pay like Nico Nico Douga. Also, YouTube is visited by everyone, not just Japanese visitors. Of course, I could have made a torrent, but it would be too large (350GB+ easy). I also could have made an FTP Server, but I don't have a computer that stays on all of the time like a desktop anymore. So, I can store the data on YouTube for free. Now, if PPOSP is ever taken off YouTube, I guess I will have to do something like an FTP server or re-upload all of the files somewhere else.
Currently, this project contains videos from Xenon, Twinstar, Starfire, Disco Pirate's, Arx, Area, Aqua Dive, 9LoveJ, 大日本異端芸者, Hyper 湖国 Mission, SEF Mach, SEF Gold, Dynamite Rave, Joy, Maria Club, Jack & Betty, Club Jah, TechPara Shot Gun, TechPara Stadium, and many others. I'm not going to list all of the videos as there are too many to list. There are more than 400 videos on the YouTube channel. The Xenon playlist is 15 hours long, while the AREA playlist is 17 hours. It would take weeks, possibly a few months, to watch all of the videos on my channel since some are quite long with some being over an hour in length.
I am not trying to become famous. It is nice if that happens, but I don't care because being famous in ParaPara only nets you a few Facebook friends and Twitter followers. You won't get paid to go to Japan and dance the night away or appear in a club video. You also won't get a job doing ParaPara not matter how famous you are as one cannot dance it professionally anymore. It is also a misconception that I am breaking friends' trust by doing this project. This is not true as I did not obtain most of these videos from friends.
I truly hope that everyone watches these videos and learns the routines that were kept away from video hoarders all of these years. I might not be able to trade videos that much after this project, but I hated all of that anyway. Some videos are rarer than others, which was never taken into account, so I never understood it. I also hope more people are able to get into maniac and wangan (湾岸) routines because I believe that they are not played enough. Life is what you make of it. You only live it once. Do something that will change people's lives, rather than helping yourself all of the time.