hello everyone! it's lolly. i've been meaning to write about anifest for a while, and with another ambivalent clip going up on social media tonight, i thought it would be a good time to get around to that! (i also still have a post about amuse fes sitting in my drafts. it'll see the light of day. one day. heheh)
first of all, it was already a month and a half ago, which means that was the last time we performed.... i actually can't remember the last time we've gone this long without performing. we're really eager to get back to performing, but of course everyone's health and wellbeing comes first, so we don't want to rush into doing shows again straight away! everyone, please look after yourself, and when the time is appropriate for us to hold shows again, we will -- so please wait for us, okay?
i wanted to write about anifest because i wanted to write a bit about some of the feelings and events surrounding the weekend. i think it's been echoed by most of the members already, but there's a few anecdotes i want to share also!
sorry if this is kind of long. as we've established by now i like rambling.
so ambivalent was kind of our "main song" for anifest, and it came into conception around december-january. it was the song that pulled me into my love for keyakizaka (which i won't go on about here), but the theme of ambivalent is the difficulty of human relationships. it's a song about someone who can't stand the irrationality of human nature -- the tendency to judge, the tendency to talk behind people's backs and be caught in drama, the tendency to be caught up in trivial matters -- and wants to lock themselves away from the world, but recognises that they need people around them for life to be fulfilling.
to this day i've never found a song where the lyrics mirror my inner sense of self so much. it felt like someone had vocalised the primary internal struggle that i wrestle with as i go about life. and combined with that, the choreography captivated me; it was a level of complexity i wasn't used to seeing with idols, it was visually powerful, and it was something that i felt was way out of our skill level at the time. even still, i wanted to entertain it as a possibility, so i brought it up to the other members, initially hoping to perform the song for my birthday live.
to my surprise, the other members were actually willing to give it a go; i could sense that people felt a little anxious about it so i didn't want to push it, but people seemed to want to challenge themselves. ignoring the complexity, keyakizaka is a 20+ member group, and we were cutting the formation down to a mere 6. it was a nerve-wracking amount of work.
because of that we quickly realised it wasn't possible to do it for my birthday live.... which was okay. it gave us one more month to work on it!
as you can expect, because this dance was so complex, from the formation changes to moves to timing, we ended up spending a lot of time working on this dance. obviously we were practicing for other events and learning other new songs in between, but over the period of a month and a half we went over the same choreography over and over again, practiced parts that needed to be perfectly timed, and tried to rework sections to look better with fewer people. (actually, i started cracking a joke about how i spent an hour watching ambivalent videos a day, because every practice i'd come saying ''hey guys, i was watching ambivalent AGAIN, and i have MORE things we should fix/clean up...")
maybe a week and a half out we realised it was actually starting to look alright. it felt so exhilarating and i remember the first time we ran through the entire song, we all couldn't stop grinning into the mirror. there's something about performing this song where the music just sends you into another plane of existence lol.
for me, i learned to cartwheel for the verse section -- it's something i've always struggled with and was terrified to learn, but i really wanted to do this dance, so i was determined to make it work. i practiced a lot at home trying learn how to do a cartwheel so that i could pull it off! i'm no trained gymnast and my form wasn't the best in the end, but i'm proud of my own progress in this respect and i hope i can keep improving so i can give a more powerful cartwheel!
it's also a really exhausting song to perform; it was probably obvious but it really puffs us out to do this one! it probably isn't audible from the audience, but on stage you can hear everyone heaving for breath in time with each other in the last "ambivalent about..." section. it always makes us laugh when we're practicing it in the studio and it's super loud LOL.
so, performing this song at anifest was really nerve-wracking and we were concerned that we were going to screw it up; but watching the footage back from our first run of the day was so exhilarating! we put so much work into this dance, and we did it! WOW!! what a step forward for us.
i think the skill floor for ambivalent is way higher than anything else we've done before, so i'm very proud of my fellow members for being able to rise to the challenge so well. i still remember the days when it took us six months to learn a single love live dance; of a-muse, most members have no formal dance experience to joining the group, so i felt that along with everything else a-muse has done over the last year performing this song showed our progress as a group in leaps and bounds. working hard as a team to achieve results is the cheesy stuff idols dream of, but performing ambivalent was a statement for us to say that we'll continue rising to the challenge to be better as idols and performers.
that's what i think. anyway that's a lot of ambivalent talk!
our other new song was tokyo rat city which we popped in just because we all like it LOL. also, compared to how exhausting ambivalent was, it's a nice breather!
we showed off new costumes for anifest!!
-- LONG STORY ABOUT OUR COSTUME SAGA AHEAD --
if you've seen the ambivalent choreography, it's really reliant on having a swishy skirt, and the original costumes feature long flowy culottes to facilitate this. we thought it was a good time for a new costume since we haven't had one as a group since last september, so after taking everyone's opinions and design preferences into account, pengi and i came up with the design!
we wanted something that featured the long skirt, but something that despite the modesty still had a hint of sexiness to it (for lack of a better word) -- so we decided to use sheer fabric, construct the tops out of sports fabric that clung to the body, and insert mesh panels! up until now we've primarily done costumes with a very typical ''idol'' silhouette, so this time we wanted to steer away from that and try something a little more dramatic; as a result we decided to play with some theatrical sleeves as well!
straight away pengi and i knew what fabric we wanted to use for the sheer sections, and there was an iridescent mesh i really wanted to use on the panelling. initially, we had these designs prepared quite early, so we could send them off to our designer and we didn't have to make them (as we're all rather poor for time).
...then COVID-19 happened and it became apparently pretty quickly that idea was out the window.
and thus The Costume Saga began.
so realising we'd have to make it ourselves, i went and ordered the sheer fabric we needed for the costume; but given china was in the heat of the epidemic, most sellers i approached weren't operating at all. additionally, those who were wouldn't be able to send it out with enough time to reach us and have it made.
because this fabric is quite specific and we needed it in so many colours, i realised china was the only place we could source this fabric. so this ended up being pretty troublesome -- but i was set on this fabric.
there was one singular seller that pulled through; after paying a LOT of money for express shipping, they were communicative about sending the package out despite a mild delay. so we waited, anxiously, and i started making the costumes in the meantime.
we were fully prepared to use a backup fabric -- in fact, when PULSAR was in sydney for a day for our AGS show, pengi and i ventured out to cabramatta noting our options! but in the end, i resolved that i wanted the fabric we initially envisioned. the iridescent quality to it is just so unique and pretty.
in the end, due to fedex delays, the fabric wasn't going to get to brisbane before we needed to leave for anifest -- but thanks to a very helpful fedex representative on the phone, they rerouted it to sydney and once it was confirmed that the package was waiting in sydney for me i relaxed a little. i finished everything i could without that fabric and resolved to just bring the sewing machine to sydney with me and complete them there.
so we all arrived in sydney, the others went ahead to check into our accommodation, and i trekked out to fedex to pick up the fabric!
all was well.
once at our accommodation i started to finish them off!
all was well.
and then the sewing machine decided to say no!
i still couldn't tell you what happened. the machine just wouldn't stop making banging noises, the thread kept snapping, and the tension was all sorts of screwed up. sewing things that should have taken ten minutes were now taking an hour. the other members stepped in to try see if they could fix whatever was wrong with the machine, to no avail. we also found that we couldn't open up the machine as we didn't have the right tools.
at this point, it was late (like, 11.30pm late). we hadn't brought another costume for the weekend.
deciding to try my luck, i called a certain idol manager friend who was awake and free and had the tools we needed! hooray! so he came round.
"you guys didn't bring another costume so why are you guys so calm?" "are you guys gonna be ok?" were the questions that came up.
and to be honest, we knew there was a chance this could happen from the get go, which was maybe why we were so calm. and also, after five years of working together, all our members have learned there's no use in panicking and when a crisis occurs, everyone has to put their heads together to get the job done.
in the end, we still couldn't get the machine open with the tools. but we hand sewed essential pieces together and went to bed (albeit quite late).
and then in the morning, we managed to wrestle some final stitches out of the machine!
finishing our dance costumes the morning of the con like a cosplay crunch was definitely not on our list of things to do, but we were determined to have things come out as we'd envisioned, so ultimately with everyone's patience we made it work!!
anyway, what we learned from this is that COVID-19 sucks, and we REALLY don't have time to make costumes. also bring backup tools in case you're in a pinch and things break.
-- COSTUME SAGA END --
i'm pleased to report that thanks to the COVID-19 stay at home order, i was able to get my sewing machine repaired and so the costumes have now also been repaired and tweaked a little! i hope we can get to wear them again sometime soon.
despite all that rush prior to the con, once that was out of the way it was a very fun weekend. performing a lot is very tiring, but everyone is used to the operation and schedule by now so it was a pretty stress-free weekend! although most of us didn't have time to see other groups perform, it was very cool to hear idols wherever you went over the anifest weekend. it really turned into somewhat of an idol festival.
a-muse's main mission is to bring idol culture to australia, so to see the scene develop like this was so exciting!
thank you to everyone who came to see us during our buppan sessions, also. given the length of the slots it was a little hard to catch us between all the groups performing but we were so blown away and overwhelmed by the response!!
kate talked about it in her own anifest post, but after everyone goes home from the convention and decompresses, there's really nothing greater than physically sensing the bond between each other increasing. the more a-muse travels together for performances, the more i find myself hanging back as we all walk home from meals or outings after performances and just smiling as i see the other members interact and have meaningful conversations with each other.
we might not be everyone's cup of tea, but when i look at the other members, i think a-muse is pretty incredible. i guess judging by those who have stuck around as our patrons, or supported us through livestreams or the online store, who have come to see our performances to some degree, or even those who just watch or interact with our posts, maybe other people think so too. so thank you!
reminiscing on the anifest weekend really makes me miss performing, but rest assured that we haven't been taking much of a break despite stay at home orders. as soon as we're able to hold events and even see each other again, just you wait -- we've got so much in store for everyone!
this blog post was lengthy and i have a habit of not proofreading things so it's likely this won't be very structured, but if you made it to the end, thanks for bearing with me! it only took me a month and a half to finally write about anifest!
(i will be 80 by the time i finish my a-muse fes post.)
everyone, take care, look after yourselves, and i hope we can see you soon!
to wrap things up, here’s a photo of me freaking out when luvkii suddenly appears in frame. love your work.
with love, lolly