A demonstration of international tango and waltz with the Monday Night Formation Class.

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

GARDENA — David Shinjo celebrated 30 years as a dance instructor with a dinner/dance on March 29 at the Elks Lodge in Gardena.

Shoji and Kikue Miyagishima

Noting that he first started dancing 40 years ago, Shinjo said, “Still I’m teaching every day.” He called himself a “lucky, lucky man.”

He thanked his students, dancers and friends, particularly Eiko Onagi, Satoru Toga and Aki Shigenaga, “for their generous contribution of time and effort in making the 30th anniversary dance a successful and memorable event.”

Serving as emcees were David Hribar, president of the David Shinjo Dance Club, and Joe Shiroma. Music was provided by Ike Taniguchi.

Attendees took to the dance floor for a variety of social dances, including samba, tango, rumba, foxtrot, cha-cha, waltz, and West Coast swing.

The student-student showcase featured Shoji and Kikue Miyagishima (international foxtrot) and Hribar and Harriet Hori (West Coast swing). For the teacher-student showcase, Shinjo and his long-time partner Gira Nakamoto performed the international waltz and international foxtrot.

Harriet Hori and David Hribar

A demonstration of international tango and waltz was given by the Monday Night Formation Class: Shinjo and Nakamoto, the Miyagishimas, Hayanori and Chizuko Mizoguchi, Hribar and Nobuko Kochi, and Yoshihiro Ishii and Shinobu Nagaso.

A series of professional Latin dances was performed by Artemi Okunev and Yulia Dragina. Okunev has danced competitively in Australia, the U.K. and Asia, won the Asian Pacific Grand Prix, and appeared on “Strictly Dancing, “So You Think You can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars” in Australia. Dragina, a dancer for 11 years, was featured in multiple pop song videos, advertising campaigns, public concerts and corporate events in Russia.

A native of Nago, Okinawa, Shinjo came to U.S. in 1971. It was always his dream to come to America, learn English and start a business. He became involved with Hokubei Okinawa Club and learned Ryukyu dance and shamisen. In 1974, he gained permanent residency and managed a restaurant.

Yulia Dragina and Artemi Okunev

Not long after he arrived in Los Angeles, he was invited to a Taisho Club dance party and began practicing at a dance studio in Hollywood. He went on to win a dance contest, and in 1984 he sold his three restaurants and launched his career as a dance instructor. In Gardena, where he has lived for many years, he established his own dance studio. The number of students has increased over the years, and he now teaches at eight locations and has some 300 students at his studio.

A member of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, the National Dance Council of America, and U.S. Terpsichore, he has received numerous honors, including a volunteer award from Hokubei Okinawa Kenjinkai and a “best teacher” award from the Asian Dance Association, as well as proclamations from former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A native of Thailand, Nakamoto came to the U.S. to pursue her dream of studying at the Fashion Institute of Los Angeles. She later started Gira’s Taste, specializing in event planning and catering. Taking beginning ballroom with Shinjo seven years ago, she discovered this to be her passion and became his partner. She designed and coordinated the costumes for the formation group and also designs her own costumes for exhibitions.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

David Shinjo and longtime partner Gira Nakamoto performed the international waltz and international foxtrot during the teacher-student showcase.
Attendees danced the night away.
Performers and event organizers pose for a group photo.

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