History of  Dancing Fools quote
 
The following post barely falls within list charter, and only because
the editor of CDSS news asked about the following quote in the latest issue:
 
"We're fools whether we dance or not, so we may as well dance."
 
Nevertheless, perhaps my reply to the editor is of interest to some.
 
I got my copy of CDSS news Friday and for once read through the whole
thing right away.  The quotation is actually from the lyrics of a
regional folkdance called "Awa odori" from Tokushima prefecture on the
island Shikoku that is just south of the main island, Honshuu, in Japan.
("Awa" is the old name for that region.)  This dance is a "bon odori",
i.e., a dance for the festival of returning ancestral spirits, which
takes place in July/August each year.  There are lots of different bon
odori from various regions, but Awa odori has become extremely popular
nationwide.  Tourists come from all over Japan for the Bon Festival in
Tokushima each year August 12-15.  It has a combination of simplicity
and exuberance that makes it easy to join in.  One can often see it
performed by various groups at neighborhood festivals in Tokyo, which is
nowhere near the original source of the dance.  (Similarly we have
contra dancing in California.)

It's hard to describe Awa odori in words, so I've put a 4-minute mp3
file at <http://seki.csuhayward.edu/awa.mp3> for your listening
pleasure.  (Normally the dance would run for much longer; I have one CD
of Awa odori that consists of just two 26-minute cuts.)  Some of the
websites listed below have pictures, and in any case, you can find
useful links by inputting "awa odori" into Google.

If you listen to the mp3, it starts with just instruments (shamisen,
fife, drum, bells), then there are some encouraging shouts that have no
literal meaning:

"Ha! Yatosa! Yatosa!" [several times].

"Eraiyatcha! Eraiyatcha! Yoi yoi yoi yoi!"

The actual lyric only comes about 2:40 in, done in a shouting style:

"Odoru ahou ni miru ahou, onaji aho nara odoranya son son."

which literally means:

"We are foolish people who dance or see (people dance).
If after all we are foolish, we lose if we don't dance."

I think your translation in the newsletter

"We're fools whether we dance or not, so we may as well dance."
is quite idiomatic and on the mark.

Then the next lyrics are sung very slowly.

"Awa no dono sama hachisuka-kou ga ima ni nokoseshi Awa odori"

"What Awa's Lord Hachisuka left us to the present day is Awa odori."

I just found on the web that there was a Lord Hachisuka who came to
Tokushima in 1585 and made it the capital of Awa (old name for that
region). The same website:
<http://www.kagawa-jc.ac.jp/~steve_mc/shikoku/tokushima.html>
has some history and translates the famous phrase as:

Dancers are fools; lookers-on are fools!
If both are fools, why not be dancing fools!

[My favorite translation so far. - Paul]

The name of the song, which dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867), is
*Yoshikono bushi*.  The liner notes tell me that this popular song
spread throught the country and actually replaced the original *Haiya
bushi* melody to which Awa odori was originally danced.  I haven't been
able to trace the history of this song yet, which is, of course, the
original source of the verse.  Doubtless the verse would be obscure by
now except for its preservation in the folkdance context.

The following are some of the better sites about Awa odori in English:

http://www.country-dance.com/English/e-event/e-awaodori/awaodori-main.html
http://jin.jcic.or.jp/kidsweb/calendar/august/awaodori.html
http://jin.jcic.or.jp/atlas/festivals/fes12.html
http://www1.pref.tokushima.jp/english/awaodori/odori1_e.html [Requires
Shockwave]

I thank my colleague Kazuo Yana for pointing me in the right direction
and ensuring the accuracy of my translation.

                                    Tom/Sven
Tom Roby                                      Department of Math & CS
metis [@] seki.mcs.csuhayward.edu                 California State University
[Fax] 510-885-4314,4169                       25800 Carlos Bee Blvd.
[Off] 510-885-2691,3591                       Hayward, CA 945423092
                   http://seki.csuhayward.edu