Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nihon Buyoh - Traditional Japanese Dance in Kyoto

I love this photo. Not just because the subject being photographed via her relative's mobile phone is so very porcelain doll-like but also because it reminds me of the dance performance I had witnessed just prior to snapping this. 

My good friend Bridget Scott, a woman of many talents including Shiatsu therapist and instructor, Butoh (avant guarde Japanese dance form) wunderkind (and teacher) and University English teacher - is part of a traditional dance group in Kyoto town. She is the only foreigner I know to have been so welcomed into such a prestigious group and has very much become an integral part of their unique family.  The Nihon Buyoh world is extremely close knit, and seemingly quite secretive and mysterious, so it was an absolute privilege to have been invited to a performance in her teacher's wonderful home (complete with stage and all necessary accoutrement) on not one, but a couple of occasions. 

Her dear Sensei, whom I had the pleasure of meeting several times, recently passed away but the dance lives on in her honour and in some ways her death has brought the performers even closer together. They seem to be teaching and developing each other as a group. They regularly spend time together rehearsing and each year will visit their departed teacher's mountain retreat, giving the house a solid once over, tidying up the garden, rehearsing and and occasionally chatting over tea while sensei looks on from her photos.  

She was an intriguing woman who was known to be a little bit of a rebel in the Nihon Buyoh world and the acceptance of a foreign student was clear evidence of that. 

For privacy I'll keep her name a mystery. But wherever you are Sensei - I thank you for allowing me into your intimate world briefly to witness what so few foreigners are privy to. I've have always been so well looked after both during and post performances  - being served only the finest tea, sake, sweets and snacks on the tatami by the gorgeous troupe.  I'm pretty sure I was a small source of amusement to some of the guests but it was worth the stares and whispers! They never last for long anyway... 

Did I feel guilty (and old!) when I was gifted a seat with the octogenarians while everyone else had to sit, as is traditional, cross-legged and literally cramped on the floor...  perhaps, just mildly - but let me tell you that my dodgy gaijin back would not have allowed me experience Nihon Buyoh any other way. I'm a lucky girl. Arigatou gozaimasu Burijitto san for sharing a little slice of your Nihon Buyoh life with me. 

Ps - give me some time and I'll add some more pics....sadly none of the actual performance as photos were not permitted - but perhaps a couple of Bridget if she'll let me! more soon....

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