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Nihon Buyo delights UK Audiences

16 May 2005

Nihon Buyo - Final curtain call

In mid-March, audiences in London and Edinburgh were delighted by Japan's oldest surviving traditional dance form, Nihon Buyo, which made its British debut on an unprecedented scale with the support of the Japan Foundation and the Embassy of Japan.

Nishikawa Senzo, Grand Master of the Nihon Buyo Foundation, has been designated a 'living national treasure' by the Japanese government. He led a company of elaborately dressed dancers and traditional musicians in various performances of dance and drama where the characters in each story are defined by emphatic facial expressions and tiny, stylised movements. Props such as sensu (Japanese fans) along with changes in music, choreography, costume, and make-up are used to express emotions as well as to represent scenery.

(Nihon Buyo is recorded in the Kojiki, Japan's oldest history book, which was completed in AD712. Different forms of dance have been passed down through the generations).



Senkei - The Depiction of the Fans was performed by six male dancers in a vibrant and lively choreography. The performance was divided into three sections. The first section was set around the divinity of fans, as well as the awe and worship of nature. The second section revolved around the themes of encounter and separation. Finally, the third section concluded the performance with happiness and festivity.


Nishikawa Yuko performing Shiokumi Nishikawa Yuko performing Shiokumi

Nishikawa Yuko performing Shiokumi

Shiokumi - Tide Gatherer was performed by Nishikawa Yuko. Matsukaze in Noh is the story of a poet, Ariwara No Yukihira, who was exiled to the seashore of Suma and had a love affair with two sisters who are sea divers, named Matsukaze and Murasame. Shiokumi is set after Ariwara No Yukihira has been forgiven and left Suma for the city. A female diver appears clothed and wearing a hat, which are mementos of Yukihira. She dances to the memory of the poet and expresses her longing for him. In the end, her dancing recalls the sweet memories she had with him.


Nishikawa Minosuke perfoming Tomoyakko Nishikawa Minosuke perfoming Tomoyakko

Nishikawa Minosuke perfoming Tomoyakko

Tomoyakko - The Vassal was performed by Nishikawa Minosuke. Yakko means the servant of a Samurai. In this perfomance, the servant goes to a red-light district with his master but gets lost. He talks about his master boastfully on the streets while looking for the master. Tomoyakko shows the movements of a traditional Japanese game "Jan Ken" (paper, scissors, stone). In the final part, the dancer stamps on the floor to the rhythm of the percussion. Then he recovers and at last leaves the district.


Grand Master Nishikawa Senzo in Samurai Naozane Grand Master Nishikawa Senzo in Samurai Naozane

Grand Master Nishikawa Senzo in Samurai Naozane

Samurai Naozane - Warrior Naozane was performed by Nishikawa Senzo plus two female characters and six male dancers. The story was adapted from the Japanese classical story Heike Story in which Samurai Kumagai Jiro Naozane was ordered by his master to save the life of his enemy, the illegitimate son of the emperor. Kumagai mediates and kills his own son...

Photographs © Nihon Buyo Foundation



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