Kyoko Ohashi, Research Associate, Dalhousie University

My name is Kyoko Ohashi and I am a research associate at the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University in Halifax.  I started to work at Dalhousie in early 2004, soon after I received my Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and except for two years when I worked for Fisheries and Oceans Canada in St. John’s, I have been here since.

My work involves setting up and running numerical models of ocean circulation; the way I often explain this is to say, ”The models I use are similar to what weather forecasters use, but are for the ocean instead of the atmosphere.”  The models produce simulations of the ocean’s physical state (including the currents, salinity, and temperature) which, in addition to being of interest by itself, can provide valuable information for those who study the biological or geochemical state of the ocean.  There are people who look down on modelling work as “not real research” because it does not involve field or laboratory work, but in fact model simulations and observations can complement and guide each other to advance our knowledge of the ocean.  For example, simulations can provide estimates of the ocean state for times and places for which we do not have observations, or indicate locations where observations should be made in order to have the most utility.  Observations, on the other hand, are crucial for checking the accuracy of the simulations, and can also be used as model input in order to improve the simulations’ accuracy.  All of this is to say that my work is a lot of fun – but it does mean sitting at a desk all day (and perhaps into the evening).

As a child I always wanted to take ballet lessons, and during my first stint at Dalhousie, I took an introductory ballet class for adults at a local dance school and enjoyed it immensely.  After I moved back to Halifax from St. John’s, from time to time I would think about taking another dance class, but as Megan has written in her post for this blog, it is easy for our non-work interests to fall by the wayside.  When I finally enrolled in my first flamenco class in early 2014, it had already been a few years since I saw my first flamenco performance and took a trial class.  Both were part of an annual flamenco festival organized by Maria Osende, a ballerina-turned-flamenco dancer and teacher.  I have been taking weekly classes taught by Maria since then, and although I sometimes have to miss classes because of work, the classes provide a nice counterbalance to my workday of sitting in my office and staring at my computer monitor.

To me, one of the fascinating aspects of flamenco is the diversity of influences it contains.  Flamenco started among the Romani (“gypsies”), and its music reflects the Romani people’s roots in what is today northern India and eastern Pakistan.  Over time, flamenco has incorporated different styles of music and dance – for example, this summer we were learning a palo (dance style) called the guajira, which is a style of music that was imported to Spain from Cuba, and has its roots in the music of both Spain and west Africa.

Studying one art form often means coming into contact with related art forms or crafts, and this is certainly the case for flamenco.  In Halifax we are fortunate to have incredibly skilled flamenco musicians, which means we can dance to live music at student performances.  We can also see craftsmanship in what we wear or use – the embroidery and fringes on mantóns (shawls), the way skirts are constructed so that they move beautifully and are easy to kick up, or the way nails are placed on the soles of shoes in a way that produces good, crisp sounds without scratching the floor.

Our school is often invited to perform at community events.  In May of this year, we were part of a fundraiser organized by Halifax Shimmy Mob, a group that raises money for domestic violence charities through dance events.  This fundraiser was for Alice Housing, which provides housing and support for people in the Halifax area who are in, or exposed to, abusive relationships.  Domestic violence is something I have experienced living with myself, so being able to contribute to this fundraiser was very gratifying for me.

Photos:

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Left: a regular flamenco skirt. Right: a bata de cola, with a train of about 75 cm length.

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Left: a mantocillo, a small shawl that is worn as part of a flamenco outfit. Right: a mantón, a full-size shawl that can be used as part of a choreography.  The mantón measures about 120 cm x 120 cm (not including the fringes), which is smaller than the recommended size but being 5’1” I am getting away with it so far.

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Nails on the soles of my flamenco shoes. They are placed close together, so they produce a good sound, are not wobbly, and don’t scratch the floor. I was lucky to be able to buy this pair, which another student at my school was selling and happen to fit my feet quite well.

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