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Joint Performance of Four Schools in ‘An Afternoon of Japanese Dance’

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简介Dancers from Azuma-ryu, Sanjo-ryu, Bando-ryu and Seiha-Wakayagi-ryu presented performances of Japane...

Dancers from Azuma-ryu, Sanjo-ryu, Bando-ryu and Seiha-Wakayagi-ryu presented performances of Japanese classical dance in Torrance on Nov. 4. Back row, from left: Wakayagi Shuho, Wakayagi Ayame, Wakayagi Kiyoka, Wakayagi Rinsen, Bando Hidesomi, Sanjo Kanfuji, Bando Hiromiya; front row, from left: Azuma Harusuma, Azuma Kikusue, Azuma Hisatsuma, Azuma Kikuemi. Not pictured Azuma Kiyosuma.

By TOMOKO NAGAI, Rafu Staff Writer

TORRANCE — On Nov. 4, the Nihon Buyo Kai of California, a nonprofit organization, hosted “An Afternoon of Japanese Dance,” featuring performances by four schools of Japanese classical dance active in the area.

A diverse range of captivating classical dance forms, represented by various colorful performances, enthralled the audience at the North High School Performing Arts Center in Torrance.

Bando Hiromiya depicts a fish peddler in “Katsuo Uri.”

The participating schools were Azuma-ryu, Sanjo-ryu, Bando-ryu, and Seiha-Wakayagi-ryu. The opening performance featured Wakayagi Ayame in a vibrant light green furisode kimono, presenting the famous nagauta piece “Hourai.”

Following this, Bando Hiromiya depicted the lively movement of a bonito fish peddler of Edo (present-day Tokyo) in the kabuki piece “Katsuo Uri.” Wakayagi Kiyoka then performed the Kiyomoto piece “Wakatake,” and the first part concluded with Sanjo Kanfuji showcasing the nagauta piece “Urashima.”

The latter, based on the well-known folktale“Urashima Taro,” surprised the audience as Taro, upon opening the forbidden box, transformed into an old man with white hair. Sanjo Kanfuji mentioned that this performance held special memories for her, as it was a piece she danced at the age of 19 at her first performance under her natori name.

In the second part, Bando Hidesomi delicately performed the nagauta piece “Kurokami” in the traditional Jiuta-mai style choreographed by the 8th Bando Mitsugoro. Following this, Wakayagi Rinsen portrayed a stylish female entertainer traveling door-to-door with a shamisen in hand in the Kiyomoto piece “Onnatayu.”

The final number was a group dance of the nagauta piece “Nagare” performed by five dancers of Azuma school — Azuma Kikusue, Hisatsuma, Harusuma, Kiyosuma, and Kikuemi — captivating the audience with their splendid and innovative performance.

Wakayagi Ayame performs the nagauta classic “Hourai.”

According to Azuma Kikusue, the music was more like a shamisen performance piece, but “Azuma Kabuki” took it and made a dance for it. The first Azuma Tokuho choreographed it for the famous 1950s world tour known as “Azuma Kabuki.”

The choice of each piece showcased the unique and elegant atmosphere of Nihon buyo.

Opportunities to witness the grand kabuki or “Honbutai” style, where performers wear traditional wigs, white makeup and authentic costumes, and carry genuine props, are rare. The theater provided ample lighting, and the genuine wooden floor stage set created a distinctive and serene atmosphere unique to classic Japanese dance events.

The program highlighted the charm of traditional dance, presenting a variety of facets: in music styles from nagauta, kiyomoto, and tokiwazu, in choreographic styles from kabuki drama to contemporary group dance, featuring different genders and ages.

All performers were leaders or prominent members of the local dance groups. One audience member praised the strength of Southern California’s Japanese cultural presence, saying, “It would be great if this show had opportunities for performances in other regions or states. Otherwise, it would be mottainai.”

After the performance, Bando Hidesomi expressed joy, saying, “I’m really happy that we were finally able to have this in-person dance event. It was made possible through everyone’s cooperation, and I am truly grateful.”

Azuma Kikusue mentioned, “Practicing together with the dancers was really so fun and bonding with such a good time practicing together. And it all came together in a nice performance.”

Azuma Kikusue, Hisatsuma, Harusuma, Kiyosuma and Kikuemi perform “Nagare.”

All performers collectively expressed their gratitude to the volunteers who supported the event.

Nihon Buyo Kai of California was founded with disciples of the late Madame Bando Mitsuhiro as its core, aiming to unite dancers from various schools of classical Japanese dance active in the area. Their goal is to promote and support the preservation, promotion, and presentation of Japanese classical and traditional dance forms.

Randi Tahara, the president, stated, “I think today’s show went very well. I was pleased to see so many different people in the audience. We had some young people and then some older people, different generations, so that made me very happy. I think that dancers were happy for the opportunity to perform, and we were able to present many different types of dancing.”

She expressed her hope that the show helped people understand Japanese dancing a little bit better and added, “I know for many, it’s sometimes hard to watch because it’s slow. The music is not what they’re accustomed to hearing. So we want to make this an educational experience … in the back of the program, we have a glossary. So for those who are not familiar with Japanese, we hope they learn something, and then we hope it broadens their horizon, their acceptance of different cultures.”

In addition to dance performances, Nihon Buyo Kai of California organizes lecture and demonstration events. They have previously invited professionals from Japan give presentations on topics such as wigs and koken(stage assistants).

According to Bando Hidesomi, the next planned event is likely to be another lecture and demonstration, promising an unusual insight into the backstage secrets of Japanese dance.

While Los Angeles has long been home to many dance schools and performers, collaborative activities among them have been relatively rare. Tahara expressed her vision, saying, “One of the goals, I think, is that this is our chance to have everyone work together, and we would love to have more dance schools represented here.”

Breaking down the barriers could contribute to expanding the scope of Japanese dance in the future. The organization is actively seeking support from members who share its mission and from those willing to contribute to its activities.

Website: www.NihonBuyoKai.org

Email: [email protected]

Photos by TOMOKO NAGAI/Rafu Shimpo

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