One of my favorite films, Sans Soleil (by the late, great film essayist Chris Maker), features the surreal Japanese dance culture of takenoko-zoku. In a park in Harajuku, Marker’s camera floats between the synchronous dance moves of a few teenagers dressed in bright pink, purple, and teal outfits.
The girls wear little kid-style plastic jewelry and accessories, and their dance leader, a guy no older than 19, is also decked out in crazy garb. The narrator calls them baby martians–young extraterrestrials living in a parallel but distant teenage universe.
At the height of the takenoko-zoku movement, young dancers could stop traffic on the weekends with their sheer numbers. Sans Soleil only highlights a small crowd, but they would sometimes gather as many as a thousand dancers in the Harajuku district of Japan, aka Pedestrian Heaven.
All you needed to be a takenoko-zoku was colorful, baggy clothing on par with the rest of the dancers, a boom-box, and the dual desire to blend in and stand out. Each dancer moves peacefully in synchronicity, but loudly expresses his or her personal style. In his preeminent mediation on time and memory, perhaps Marker filmed the first-ever flash mob…
Eventually the dancing fad faded, and the takenoko-zoku’s traffic blocking wasn’t tolerated anymore. Take a look at some rare video of the long-gone 80s subculture.
And here’s a link to Chris Marker’s seminal film (grab a DVD copy to see it in its proper glory).