Dance Dance Dance

She is definitely calling me. From somewhere in the Dolphin Hotel. And apparently, somewhere in my own mind, the Dolphin Hotel is what I seek as well. To be taken into that scene, to become part of that weirdly fateful venue. (p. 5-6)

When our nameless narrator from A Wild Sheep Chase continues his story in Dance Dance Dance we find him searching for the Dolphin Hotel of his past. Where the girl with the beautiful ears had taken him, and they had lived together for a short while as lovers before she vanished.

 It is no easy task to find the hotel, but when he does, he discovers an ultra modern, utterly changed, building from the tiny dump that he remembered. In this new international complex he discovers Yumiyoshi, the charming girl at the reception desk who tells him about her dreadful experience when the elevator took her to floor sixteen: a dark, lightless place of terror from which she could barely escape.  He, too, encounters floor sixteen, and The Sheep Man who tells him that he must keep his feet moving. To keep everything going he must dance.

“Tendencies. Yougottendencies. Soevenifyoudideverythingoveragain, yourwholelife, you gottendenciestodojustwhatyoudid, alloveragain.”

“Yes, but where does that leave me?”

“Like wesaid, we’lldowhatwecan. Trytoreconnectyou, towhatyouwant,” said the Sheep Man. “Butwecan’tdoitalone. Yougottaworktoo. Sitting’snotgonnadoit, thinking’snotgonnadoit.”

“So what do I have to do?”

“Dance,” said the Sheep Man. “Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougottadance. Don’teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you’restuck. Sodon’tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb. Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’retired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, okay? Justdon’tletyourfeetstop.” (p. 85-86)

The narrator’s journey continues when he accompanies Yuki, a thirteen old girl left behind by her photographer mother, Ame, to her home in Tokyo. Throughout the course of his search he runs into his old friend from school, Gotanda, now a professional actor; Yuki’s father who’s a writer named Hiraku Makimura (!); assorted call girls named Mei and June, Yuki’s mother’s lover named Dick North, and eventually he sees Kiki herself, who leads him to a room in which six skeletons are arranged as clearly as if the flesh had melted from their bones while they were simply sitting there.

What is he to make of these six dead bodies? The continually vanishing Kiki? Life itself? This is why I love Murakami so much: the puzzles, the questions, the way they seldom have clear answers, and the way that this character abandons all pretentions in living his life. He is content with his Suburu, instead of a Maserati, if nothing else.

Tanabata’s discussion questions:

How does Dance Dance Dance compare to A Wild Sheep Chase? Did you prefer one book over the other? If you haven’t yet read A Wild Sheep Chase, do you plan to?

Both novels were a mystery, and I might add, for me, an almost unsolved one. I have questions as to the full identity of the sheep, as well as the reason why one must dance. Also, who’s the Sheep Man? Is he some kind of God? But, the two novels tie together, and I’m so glad I read A Wild Sheep Chase first, to give me the foundation for Dance Dance Dance.

Our narrator remains nameless throughout, but unlike A Wild Sheep Chase, many of the other characters in Dance Dance Dance were named? Do you think this was done on purpose? Did this alter your reading experience?

I suspect he named many of these characters for a sense of irony, or at least a sense of humour. Mei and June for the call girls? Hiraku Makimura for the famous author? I thought those were wonerful names! I’m not sure about Dick North, though, where his name points us.

Did you have any favourite characters, or scenes in Dance Dance Dance?

I loved his relationship with Yuki, that he was really there for her when her parents weren’t. They understood each other, and comforted each other, and I loved reading about them driving around listening to all those genres of music: jazz, rock, punk. When was the last time I heard the name Boy George or Duran Duran? Not since I was in college!

Did your perception of the Sheep Man change? Do you think he plays a different role in Dance Dance Dance, compared to A Wild Sheep Chase?

I can’t help but think that the Sheep Man represents some kind of diety to Murakami, some being which is all powerful, all knowing, and able to guide the characters along some path. I think he was the same in both novels.

The importance of human connection is a major theme in Dance Dance Dance. What do you think Murakami is saying here about relationships, and fate?

That we’ll all be sitting around in a dusty hotel room as skeletons together? I don’t see that Murakami has much hope for the after life, and if anything bothered me about his writing, it’s what I see as his complete lack of faith. Hope. The characters are pretty hopeless in my mind.

Do you think the chapter numbers, with the black lines in various positions relative to the numbers, had any significance? How about the fact that chapter number 42 was upside down?

I was trying to figure out what the black slashes in varying positions by each chapter number meant, and I have no clue! Also, I don’t know why the dance steps would intermittently appear from time to time throughout each chapter. I searched for a reason, a consistent theme in their placement, but it’s beyond me.

Who do you think the sixth skeleton represents?

I think it’s our narrator himself. I think that’s why there’s someone crying for him in the hotel, and that’s why he’s led there, for a glimpse into his future.

Did anyone else chuckle at the name of Yuki’s famous but mediocre writer father?


Any other thoughts or questions about book?

As usual, when I finish a Murakami work, I’m impressed and perplexed at the same time. I know I’ll read it again; each time I reread one of his books I find more clarity. Although I’m comforted when I read of what he’s said about Kafka on The Shore, for example; his books sometimes require your own interpretation. Thank you for hosting this read along Tanabata, and asking such wonderful questions. I only wish we were sharing a cup of tea in the same room together!

13 thoughts on “Dance Dance Dance”

  1. Bellezza, this wonderful review reminds me of my promise to read a novel by Murakami. Tanabata's discussion questions and your answers add much to this post.


  2. Sounds like another winner. This is a sequel to Wild Sheep Chase you say? I must read.Hey, Belleza, today I finished a book and since you had a very Spanish sounding blog name, I really really thought you would love this book:"The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.It is really good mysterious enthralling read. Do try it?


  3. I hope we didn't give too much away, although with Murakami, hints are often helpful! I hope you do read something of his, though, and you may want to start with After Dark which is shorter and less bizarre.


  4. Joy, it's so sweet of you to suggest a novel to me. Sadly, I didn't like The Shadow of The Wind at all! I thought I would judging by its cover and title, but for some reason it just was lengthy and tedious for me. I'm sorry, because I wanted to like it. I do appreciate you thinking of me! (By the way, "dolce bellezza" is Italian. 😉


  5. Again. I love your thoughts on the book Bellezza! I haven't been reading along with the JapLit group because I have read both A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance quite recently — too recent to reread 😉 Especially with that huge M. TBR and my slow reading pace…Anyway, about the dancing I would like to add that I think it has to do with body vs. mind. We're in our heads to much these days and out of touch with our bodies. It seemed important that right after his meeting with the Sheep Man there's music in the elevator — usually considered a low quality of music, right? (Called 'muzak' instead of 'muziek' in Dutch). Does he start to dance to it? I had expected him to dance (literally) much more in the rest of the story, but he didn't. Going through life dancing seems like taking things lightly, not to make a big a deal of things. Go with the flow…


  6. Oh, Gnoegnoe! Thank you so much! Of course, to go through life more lightly, dancing as you go, makes perfect sense! I love your insight in this comment.


  7. Sounds creepy but very interesting. The only thing that really stops me from reading these older works of Murakami are their lengths. But oh well, I guess I'll learn to read faster eventually, hehe.I love that cover, by the way! It's the first I've seen a cover of Dance Dance Dance like that.


  8. This isn't a terribly long read, Mark David, but it does take me awhile to work through a Murakami because I read very slowly so as not to miss any "clues"; or nuances of his writing. I'm trying to grab everything he wants to say, and still I worry that I'm missing little bits. I loved this cover, too, which is not my own but one I found on Google images.


  9. I have read Dance Dance out of sequence with Wild Sheep Chase-I was not sure if the sheep man should be taken as real or a fantasy figure-I liked this book a lot and really enjoyed your comments-I just finished the book you so kindly sent me, South of the Border, West of the Sun and it has converted me to the Murakami camp


  10. I think this would be a good read for you next as you've read A Wild Sheep Chase, and the two are loosely connected. Kafka on the Shore is my favorite Murakami so far, though.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s