TOKUSHIMA--Approximately 1,500 Awa Odori dancers performed their popular "so-odori" finale to the delight of spectators on Aug. 13 away from an official venue, over the objections of the Awa Odori dance festival's executive committee.

The committee had ordered them to call off their famed procession, fearing the performance was taking ticket sales away from the three other festival venues in the city.

However, the event’s signature so-odori grand finale show was performed by 14 Yumeiren groups.

At 10 p.m., dancers in "yukata" summer kimono and "happi" coats gathered at the “venue,” following arrays of people marching while playing traditional gongs and drums, to perform the so-odori dance. The long procession brought cheers among the massive crowd along both sides of the street.

A long-chanted catch cry for the Awa Odori festival goes, “Dancers are fools. Onlookers are fools. Anyway, we are all fools. Thus, it's better dancing.”

“We truly became ‘fool dancers' and ‘fool onlookers’ after the dancers and onlookers joined in together,” said Masanori Ota, 31, who participated in the so-odori for the first time. Ota said he joined Tenporen because it was one of the groups that always took part in the so-odori dance.

Ota added, “The cheers of spectators really encouraged us.”

Minoru Yamada, an executive of the association of Awa Odori promotion that ignored the executive committee and went ahead with the so-odori, told the audience after the show, “We are full of emotion as we were able to respond to your cheers. We want to perform the so-odori again next year. We believe that the executive committee shares with us the wishes to liven up the Awa Odori festival.”

“We urged them not to do it over and over again," Tokushima Mayor Akiyoshi Endo said afterward. "It is extremely regrettable that it was conducted after ignoring our requests. What we will do in response will be sufficiently discussed among the executive committee.”

Each year, the colorful so-odori is performed by dozens of Yumeiren groups together in the Minami-Uchimachi district venue, and is a huge attraction of the dance festival, which attracted more than 1 million people over its four-day run in 2017. The grand finale dance procession is said to have started in the late 1970s. It was featured in the climactic scene of the movie “Bizan,” which was released in 2007.

However, this year's festival was staged under a financial cloud. The city's tourism association, the key sponsor of the festival, disbanded earlier this year after falling under a mountain of debt, and bankruptcy proceedings were started.

Under such circumstances, this year’s executive committee, consisting of the municipal government and The Tokushima Shimbun, announced in June that the so-odori was canceled on the grounds that it was hurting ticket sales at the other festival venues.

The committee decided to allocate the dancers of the Yumeiren groups evenly among the four venues.

The association of Awa Odori promotion, one of the organizing bodies for the Yumeiren groups, objected to the committee's plans, saying, “Such a decision fails to consider the desires of the dancers.”

An official of the association of Awa Odori promotion expressed its plan to proceed with the so-odori performance outside the proper venue.

Endo urged the association of Awa Odori promotion to cancel the massive so-odori in a written notice four times saying, “It presents a danger.”

“We will consider imposing a penalty on them (if they conduct the so-odori show),” he said at a news conference on Aug. 13.

The Awa Odori festival, which started on Aug. 12, will continue until the evening of Aug. 15.