What Is ParaPara?

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 manepara (真似パラ, lit. mimicry para), even if one does not know the routines.

How To Learn ParaPara?

  1. Buy a commercial DVD or VHS and learn routines from them.
  2. Learn from friends that can already dance ParaPara.
  3. Learn from any ParaPara event or circle DVDs that you can get your hands on.
  4. Learn routines from YouTube.

About this document

At the time of writing, no one has ever published a book about ParaPara in real life. 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, in contrast with other historians.
Last updated May 20th, 2021. Written by John Bohne.

1st Boom (1987-1992)

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 in Tokyo. 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 videos that club events made such as Kanazawa King & Queen and Dougenzaka though. Which specific made certain routines during this era is largely unknown.

Wangan

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 Azabujyuuba. The choreography is very hard to find like 1st Boom videos, but it is slightly easier. The latter half of Eurobeat Fantasy and That's Eurobeat, Super Eurobeat 1-49, and Maharaja Night Hi-NRG Revolution 1-9 are usually categorized as wangan routines. Probably the most important wangan video is the homemade video "Venus Cafe 湾岸王 Special" but it is difficult to find. 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.

2nd Boom (1993-1995)

This is the era where many routines come from. The discotheque scene was popular in Japan. Major clubs during this period include 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 on this video are still danced today during 2nd boom DJ sets. If one 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".

3rd Boom (1999-2001)

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.

4th Boom (2005-2010)

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.

Official vs. Maniac

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.

Choreographer Groups

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 active, public members of SEF as of 2021 are Rumine, Sakiko, Manami, Nori, Shiori, and Mai.

Typical ParaPara Club Night

In any given week, there are multiple ParaPara events in Japan. A typical ParaPara club event begins with a warmup in 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 (kanji: 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

Club videos are an important part of ParaPara, but their importance has changed over the years. The first known ParaPara club video to ever be released was a promotional VHS called ParaPara Kyouten 0 (パラパラ教典 0) on March 21st, 1994.4 Subsequently, many other clubs began to release their own videos as people were not able to film lessons especially 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 with Mercari being the most recent popular choice of platform. 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, the club video market has significantly declined.
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 were not released frequently either with new DVDs only being distributed by Starfire and SEF every 5-6 months in contrast with the 1990s and 2000s ParaPara scene This is a sharp difference from 1994-1995 when there over a hundred club videos released across Japan in only two years. Since 2019, the major clubs and sources of new routines have stopped producing DVDs altogether perhaps not only because of the immense time involved in video production, but because of the reliance on video-sharing websites to learn new routines. Most, if not all, new lessons are posted on websites like YouTube within the month of on-site lesson performance.

YouTube

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

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.
They also continue discriminately write DMCA claims on videos not only on the YouTube platform, but other websites as well. They mostly seem to care about the commercial videos; however, even club videos are not safe from Avex depending on the representative.

Club Event Livestreaming

Since the coronavirus pandemic that began in 2020, there has been an upward trend of streaming club events through live video platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, or Twitcasting. One problem is that the platforms of choice check for copyrighted audio and the recordings often become muted. Another problem is that this is a slippery slope where there may not even be real-life parapara events in the future as people become accustomed to the "Stay At Home" movement.

1. Wikipedia Japan. パラパラ. 05/20/2021
2. Sakai, Toru. "学校で教えないパラパラの歴史". 2009. 4/16/2012
3. Bohne, John. ParaPara Lovers. Shishou Gundan. 2012. 9/20/2013
4. Discogs. Para Para Video (ParaPara Kyouten 0) 2012. 05/20/2021