Last night we attended odori performances being put on by various classes around the city. For those of us who like to use official names, it’s known as Nihon Buyou, or Japanese traditional dance.
The premise is actually pretty neat. In essence, City Hall sponsors a sort of culture month every year and rents out the local concert hall. Classes around the area sign up, pay a nominal fee, and get the chance to showoff their skills in front of the community for a night on an actual stage. Different nights showcase different presentations, with everything from modern dance to traditional Japanese instrumental performances. From what I could tell, the events are well-attended as neighbors rally together to cheer on the students, who range from 5 years old to 70.
A wave of nostalgia washed over me as we entered the darkened auditorium, as well as a faint tug of displacement. I was instantly reminded of the countless hours spent in J.Hall during college, working to ready a production for its opening and the exhilaration of each performance night. A part of me wondered why in the world I wasn’t backstage somewhere helping out.
Mind you, I don’t go through these feelings every time I attend a show. But there is a decidedly different feel between a professional production and a college production, the latter being filled with the extra tension and energy of a cast and crew still learning and honing their abilities. Last year’s atmosphere exuded this sort of charm.
All this to say it was an enjoyable hour and a half. The pictures don’t really do the dances justice- much of their beauty comes from small graceful movements (like the turning of a head or subtle kimono sleeve manipulations) and fan use. Most of the dances were performed to traditional Japanese music, which is something else… and nothing if not distinctive. Although we’re not the biggest fans, Ash and I want to get a CD or two just to bring the flavor of Nippon home with us.
The only thing missing were large pieces of bamboo hanging in mid-air.
(The stage design of J.Hall’s Rashomon remains one of my favorites.)