Apache Belles visit Fleet Activities, Yokosuka
Tyler Junior College Apache Belles dance group graced Sailors, families and friends alike from Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka with its presence during a meet and greet and live performance held at Benny Decker Theater, March 15.
The Apache Belles are a group of approximately 65 freshman and sophomore young women that are selected for their dance talent and technique. The team has traveled all around the world to Mexico, France, Ireland, China, Austria, Germany – and now Japan to perform at parades, celebrations and balls for dignitaries, special guests and for the military men and women serving in uniform.
The Apache Belles have entertained audiences from the football field to the performance stage since 1947 with their precision dance and production numbers. They have been featured in venues such as the halftime shows for two Super Bowls; numerous Dallas Cowboys, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, and Texas Rangers games. In addition, they have performed at such special events such as the Gator Bowl, Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl.
“This is something that we have wanted to do; to bring a taste of home, and a taste of Texas to our troops stationed here in Yokosuka, so we’re really excited that we’ve put together a wonderful show,” said Jasilyn Schaefer, director, Apache Belles. “The band has some Texas tunes lined up and we’ve got some great different genres of dance that we’re going to show off tonight. It’s been a long time coming; we announced the trip approximately a year ago to the girls and they were just overwhelmed. I mean, how many times in your life do you get a chance to go to Japan when you’re 18, 19 or 20 years old?”
The Apache Belles wanted to visit Japan after what they saw how the 2011 tsunami affected the nation.
“We were over in Hawaii performing for the Marines at Kaneohe Bay, and our last evening there was when the tsunami struck,” said Schaefer. “While we were in the area, we watched the Japanese people who were vacationing there and our hearts just went out to them.”
Schaefer said that safety precautions prolonged the teams’ departure from Hawaii during the tsunami and it was at that point that she had the chance to reflect on what the Belles could do to spread cheer and goodwill.
“From that point on, I kind of had in the back of my mind I would really like to take the girls to Japan and do the same thing we did there [Hawaii] but for the bases overseas,” said Schaefer. “We heard after the disaster how much our American troops here did for the Japanese people to help them with the rescue, rebuilding and relief effort, so that’s kind of where the idea was born.”
Even though the Apache Belles came to see the families and service members serving abroad, there was already a special connection between Japan and the United States by way of Tyler’s sister city.
“Tyler actually has a sister city just outside of Tokyo called Yachiyo city and we visited there the first two days,” said Schaeffer. “We went to Shumei University; they showed us the traditional Japanese dresses, the kimono, and the samurai. They made homemade food and treated us to a taiko drum performance, so it was kind of off the beaten path of tourism; it was interacting with Japanese people who live and work and this is their life and this is their culture, so they showed us some of their culture and we got to show them some of ours. It was really neat.”
Apache Belles members said that this trip left them with an everlasting impression.
“I really like it here in Japan,” said Jasmine Wesson, a freshman member of the group. “They are really friendly and everyone is very respectful. I think that if the U.S. was like that, it would be a better place. I love how you say thank you and they bow; it seems that it is important to respect elders and your neighbor at that. To see how deeply rooted they are in their culture, it was just an eye-popping experience.”
The concert at Benny Decker featured various dance routines which ranged from tap dancing and ballet, to urban contemporary. The group also made new friends in the form of the Apache Babies, which were children of service members, friends and families who had the opportunity to learn dance routines that they displayed to the crowd prior to the start of the event.
“For the kids to have this opportunity to learn from the Belles is really sweet and overall, the performance was awesome,” said Charlotte Lynch, a Texas native and friend of a service member’s spouse who was invited to the base to see the performance. “Being a Texas native and also living not too far from that campus, it really feels good to be able to see something so special that comes straight from home.”