Ryūkyū Dance Performances from Okinawa by Kugani
Join us at Japan House London to learn about the history and culture of Okinawa, an archipelago of islands located in south-west Japan.
Before formally becoming a part of Japan in the 19th century, Okinawa was the independent Ryūkyū Kingdom. The Ryūkyū islanders benefitted from extensive interactions with Japan, China, and Southeast Asia which, combined with the indigenous customs of the islands, generated a cultural diversity with is cherished still to the present day.
After repeated postponements of their UK tour due to the pandemic, Japan House London is delighted to invite guests to enjoy two free, special performances by the Kugani theatre group from Tamagusuku-ryū Gyokusenkai, the oldest Ryūkyū dance group in Okinawa.
Each hour-long performance comprises a selection of Ryūkyūan music and dance pieces highlighting various aspects of the islands’ distinctive culture.
These performances are now all fully booked. Please see our What's On page for other events to enjoy at Japan House London and online.
|Wednesday 16 March, 12:30-13:30||Fully booked|
|Wednesday 16 March, 18:30-19:30||Fully booked|
Umi no chinbora
With an original choreography by Tamagusuku Seigi I, Umi no chinbora was initially a leisurely-paced folk song, but it has become widely recognized following new arrangements for its faster tempo. The lyrics describe the spiral shells (chinbora in Okinawan) on the island. To represent spiral shells playing on the beach, the dancers display comical gestures and facial expressions.
Performed as a duet by a couple from the fishing village of Tancha (now within Onna Village), with the man holding an oar and the woman a basket, this upbeat dance depicts a fisherman about to go to sea and his wife hawking the catch of the day.
Yotsudake is a handheld percussive instrument made of two pieces of bamboo which are rhythmically clapped together by dancers, who wear a two-colored hanagasa (flower hat) representing both the red petals of the lotus flower and the waves of the blue sea. The dance is accompanied by a celebratory song with lyrics expressing the honour of dancing for this occasion.
Over her shoulder, the female dancer carries a garland of red and white flowers to express her feelings for the man she loves. The exposure of her shoulder, bared from her kasuri-fabric kimono, indicates that she is at work and the lyrics describe the purity of her love. This dance was first performed in theatres of the Meiji period (1868-1912 CE).
Some of the moves in Ryūkyūan dances are recognizably derived from karate forms. This performance presents a medley of karate and other ancient martial arts.
This folk song describes life on idyllic Kurushima, an island blessed with bountiful nature and a plentiful harvest. The dance is structured so that the dancers sing in reply to the song of the chorus. During their cheerful performance, the dancers imitate animals of the island, such as cats and crabs.
Asobi Paarankuu (Eisa)
Paarankuu is a small, tambour-like instrument used in eisa, a ritual dance for welcoming the ghosts of ancestors during the period of the Obon festival and, on the final night, for guiding them back to the afterlife. In the first half of this dance, the dancers boldly demonstrate their physical agility while in the second half they beat the paarankuu as they dance vigorously. Original choreography is by Tamaki Shizue.
The word kachashi means ‘stirring’: in kachashi, the dancersʼ hands are moved in unison, alternately to the left and to the right, with the fingers of each hand stirring the air. The form of this dance is highly individualistic, and for Okinawans, this is a natural, personal expression of joy and happiness. Tōhindōi is one of the most typical musical accompaniments to kachashi.