*Warning: Very very gif-heavy!
1. The Acrobatics
But as far as the acrobatics go, Arashi may not be ABC-Z, but they're still Johnny's trained, after all (even if two of the five are still unable to do a back flip) and that means that they can do a lot more than just this cute little jump-kick. So to the right, please enjoy the "Lucky Man" cartwheel (infinitely looped for your pleasure; you're very welcome). Is it just me, or are there a few single-handed wheels in there?
2. The Total S.W.A.G.
This might be stating the obvious, but Arashi is an all male idol group marketed mainly towards female audiences. Which means that naturally, it's part of their job description to tease our ovaries with some smoldering かっこつけ at times. What does that mean? Boom. Look below!
|Performance of "Rock This" from Beautiful World|
Though of course, that's not to say that the other members are incapable of swag. Because hey, Sakurai Sho is pretty much Swag Central when it comes to Arashi. I mean, one doesn't simply mastermind cocky Arashi raps like "Hip Hop Boogie" "La Tormenta," "Attack It" etc. and not know how to dish out the swag on stage! Sho's got the bad boy image down pat, even if he's the farthest thing from it in real life. Case exhibit to your right. Yep, that's our resident honor student, our reliable MC, and our elegant, pineapple-guzzling newscaster, all decked out in his swag suit, with his swag cap and swag pants (and conveniently raised swag shoulder patches). And who can forget this iconic TABOO gesture, with the hand obscuring the nose and the whole body just unleashing... well... SWAG?
Swag, though, sometimes can come in a more languid, lazy form, too. And from as early as "Ai to Yuuki to Cherry Pie," these five have been playing that languidly cool card and charming their audiences with their terse frowning little chibi faces. Oh just look at that swerving dip in teenage MatsuJun's hips! No matter how insecure he might have felt in the beginning, his whole body language onstage is telling you only one thing: "I'm a stud, yo." And your eyes just fix directly onto that intense, cocky glare.
And sometimes, swag also manifests in pure, unabashed and gratuitous sexualization of our members' ummm... cockiness? (Excuse the bad pun). The Arafes 2012 performance of Jun's "Shake It" was a curious mix of both dorky and sexy, and half the time, I was torn between wanting to laugh and feeling aroused. One thing remains gospel truth, though, and that's the unbeatable appeal of MatsuJun's hips. *fans self*
3. The Tooth-rotting Fluffiness
Ask any Arashi fan you see, and chances are, one of the major reasons they adore Arashi is because of the so-called "gap" between the various public personas they adopt, depending on the situation. We've just seen Arashi rock our ovaries to high hell and back with their ultra manly, uber-cocky swag moves. So now, it's naturally time for us to let ourselves melt a little in their boyish cuteness, too.
And if we're going to talk about the kawaii factor, then I would be terribly remiss if I did not at least mention a little number called "Love So Sweet." And of course, who better to showcase the definitive Arashi cuteness than our very own puppy-eyed Ninomiya Kazunari? Notice the similarity in style between the choreography of "Love So Sweet" and "Kitto Daijoubu?" They've both got that super moe hip-wiggle with these punctuating arm gestures that totally enhance their five shining idol smiles. And because "Love So Sweet" is just that full of tooth-rotting fluff (watch the PV, if you haven't already, it is pure cotton candy grade fluff), I'll include one more classic Arashi dance move from this particular song:
Naturally, member solos are also a great place to go to for some good old boyish Arashi charm, like in Aiba's "Hello Goodbye." I mean, isn't that little finger wink on the "hello" just adorable? It's like a gesture one makes when trying to talk to a precocious little child. And then the tilted wave on "goodbye" is really a cleverly devised piece of choreo, because it immediately draws all our attention straight to Aiba's mega-watt smile, and really, that image alone tends to be the one that haunts me most when I sing this song in my head.
And then, during the wreckage of fun and tears and goofiness that was Arafes '13, they came up with the brilliant idea of having all five members do the Hello Goodbye wave. That was a beautiful performance, probably my favorite performance of all Aiba solos ever (and yes, this is even after seeing the incomparable Disco Star-sama in action!). The amount of innocent friendship in this song just gets me right in the heart, and the way that everything is packaged to be so damn cute just accentuates the message all the more.
Are we done with kawaii Arashi yet?
4. The Elegance
Sometimes, Arashi will get into the mood of being artistes, and yes, part of their job descriptions is also to dazzle us with elements of some of the more hoity toity kinds of dance. So sure, we'll see some hints of ballet, of smooth elegant jazz, of melancholic R&B...
Anyone remember this heartbreaking rendition of "Refrain," which included a full umbrella choreo against a rain curtain frontdrop? Elegance, in Arashi dance terms, means dips, sweeps, and turns all executed with fluidity and tenderness. And in "Refrain," we see a lot of this. The choreo isn't necessarily too technical or dynamic; it's not the type of dance that's supposed to make your heart quicken by sheer physical exertion, it's more the type of dance that gets your heart thudding by the depth of its emotional resonance. Every move, every flick, every arch in their legs and swerve of their bodies is just charged with so much melancholic energy! The beauty is overpowering, and that's why elegant!Arashi remains one of my most irresistible flail triggers. (For a song review on "Refrain," please click here)
"Truth," the theme song to Ohno's angsty drama Maou, is just as destructive when it comes to ovaries and fangirl sanity. Yes, the song has a darker vibe than "Meikyuu" and the dance, similarly, takes on a more aggressive form of elegance. We have the classic "Truth" move, which was chosen by Music Station audiences as one of the top three Arashi choreo moves ever; that's the one where Arashi is pointing straight ahead and delineating a square of despair with their forefingers as they fix you with their intense stares in this very intense choreo (which Sakuraiba had a lot of trouble learning, apparently! Hehe, fun fact ^.^). We also have other moves, like this ballet-inspired pirouette of doom during the Arafes 2012 rendition of the song (which is just so deliciously dramatic and elegant at the same time, shown below left). And please also keep in mind the endless pivots and beautiful arches of the arms that permeate this song (shown below right). "Truth" is, in my opinion, one of the most classic pieces of serious!Arashi, where our five boys are truly in absolute honki mode!
One thing Arashi is very good at is embodying the essence of what it means to be Japanese. They were chosen as Japan Tourism Ambassadors for a reason, after all! So it's only natural that they would interlace some traditional Japanese elements into their performances, right? Enter, Arashi in kimonos, fans and lightsabers!
This is the amazing fan intro to the kimono rendition of "Right Back To You." (I should also mention that official shop photos of Arashi in this get-up are fetching prices in the 2000~4000 yen range at second hand stores in Japan). Are you getting an idea of how devastatingly gorgeous this is? I don't know much about how to dissect the themes of traditional Japanese dance, but I can say that all members exhibited a degree of dignity and restraint that evoked a sense of inner tranquility amidst an otherwise provocative song, and sure, part of it was just simply the costumes, but a large part of it was also the graceful choreography.
5. The Street Vibes
Arashi (or at least, some subset of Arashi) has the ability to pop out into some breakdance moves on the odd occasion. It doesn't happen that often, but every now and then, I do find myself doing a double-take at how much a few seconds in an Arashi performance can legit look like it came out of a breaking competition.
Speaking of Nino... Let me take you back a couple of sections to that ultra cutesy "Himitsu" performance with the members all sweating like hogs in their dork!outfits. Would you have expected a mild choreography like that to suddenly bust out moves like this wheeling bit of floorwork? I mean, Nino~! Give our hearts a break!
And speaking of floorwork, we all remember to look for that customary Jun-kick during "Monster," right? I've always thought it to be a rather sudden (and somewhat random) insertion into what would otherwise be a very fluid, uniform choreo, but no one can deny that MatsuJun has this predatory style on the floor that somehow makes this jarring move work.
6. The Finesse
Are we ready for this? Because this is going to include a major fan favorite when it comes to choreography. I'm talking about a song that was voted to be performed in both Arafeses, despite only being performed during the 2007 Time concert tours and only being captured on official film once before. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Arashi's "Love Situation!!!"
Now, one might ask, what is the appeal of "Love Situation?" Why are we so in love with a song that recounts the fairly standard story of a man going out to meet a woman and feeling all sweet and tingly inside? Is it the melody? Is it the rhythm? Is the choreo? Is it just, on the whole, everything in this entire package?
Well, the answers are: yes, yes, yes and yes. I won't get into the music, since this is supposed to be a choreo post, but one major thing that struck me when I first saw this song on DVD was the sheer finesse in all these movements. There were so many intricate hand movements and fine steps in the footwork it almost made me feel like I was in an Ohno solo. For example, look at the little finger flick, the decisive arm sweeps and the uniform stomp in the first gif? Also look at the sideways wave across the face, the twirl of the elbow, the dip with the upturned toes and finally the gaited turn in the second gif. In the third, note the high frequency wiggle in Oh-chan's legs (MatsuJun doesn't execute it quite as well here, but he does give a much better fluid wave in his arms). It's these little details, you know, that really remind us once again that while Arashi may spend a lot of their time on TV doing silly stunts or acting in dramas, they still hail from the very impressive song and dance background provided by J&A. Johnny's might not specialize in dance, but they're certainly nothing to sneeze at, either!
Take this year's "Sakura" for example. Not only is it extraordinarily well put together, with conscious effort to achieve a some sort of dimensional balance (like having two members standing and the other three sweeping the floor with their knees to create a pleasing balance in terms of occupying all vertical levels of the audience's visual field), but it also shows off the degree of control Arashi has over their bodies when it comes to leaping, to dipping, to turning while simultaneously maintaining certain moves with their fingers and legs. there's even a short sequence of finger-play in this choreo, very reminiscent of the "Monochrome" fingerworks during the 2013 Love cons.
7. The Just Plain Silly
And of course, there's always "FUNKY" if you still need more of an dorky!Arashi fix :-P
8. The Classic Boy Band Formations
Is Arashi a boyband? I know some English-speaking fans try to resist the use of this term to refer to Asian idol groups, and to be sure, there are many, many fundamental differences between Arashi and what Western audiences might think of as a "boyband" (e.g. Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, and more recently, One Direction). But as far as the dancing is concerned, Arashi actually utilizes quite a lot of the same hip hop-type routines, and being a multi-person unit, it's almost inevitable that they will take advantage of what I like to call the classic "boy band formations" to make their dances more dynamic. The most basic formation is naturally just having them all stand side by side; alternatively, you can also have them start with the common 3+2 or 2+3 trapezoid formation, where two or three members are in front and the others stand in a row behind, staggered so the audience can still see everyone's faces. But the top idol group of Japan is a little more creative than that, of course! For "Still..." we have the familiar conveyer-belt line-up, with the members' movements staggered in rhythm to the song to achieve a slightly robotic sense of unison, like they're all cogs in the same machine or something.
And who can forget the screams of the 70,000 people in Kokuritsu when Arashi knelt into formation for what may be the swaggest song in their repertoire: "Re(mark)able"? Setting aside the fact that they actually touch each other's faces (which is a kyaa-trigger for even the most level-headed of fangirls), this formation was actually brilliant in the way it linked the members with each other like they were literally interlocking links on a chain. Wonderful visuals, A+!
"Endless Game" was a number that had interesting formations both in its opening and its closing. The whole illusion/contraption of one man having multiple arms is naturally nothing new in the world of dance, and Arashi is using it with casual pizzazz here. Sho looks so smug, and now that I think about it, he doesn't seem to be the center in a lot of Arashi performances... Maybe that's because he already gets so much time to shine solo as a rapper? Like even in his drama theme songs (e.g. "Meikyuu" "Troublemaker" etc), I never quite got a strong impression of him being the "lead" so to speak. Ah well, that's really more of an impression than an observation anyways; the point is, it's refreshing for me to see Sho front and leading the choreo here!
9. And Lastly...
There's no other way to end this post but to deliver the the most iconic Arashi move of all time:
I am certain that I have left out a large number of choreos that I meant to place in here, so if you guys have some favorite dance moves that you'd like to share, the comment box is all yours!
Note: I am in no way a professional dancer or choreographer. I don't even know that much about the history of dance or the strict definitions of the different schools of dance. This was written based on my own observances and passions, and is not meant to be a scholarly analysis of Arashi's choreography as an art form. So please, enjoy the pretty gifs, enjoy the flaily talk, but don't use this for your Asian pop culture papers, boys and girls!