Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gion Odori - Act 1: Maneki

1st November, 2006 - Gion Odori is one of the set occassions throughout the year where you can watch complete geisha (geiko)/maiko dances. The dances showcase the respective prowess of the different okiya (geisha houses)... in this case the Gion Odori is performed by the Gion Higashi Kabu-kai. The dance was first performed in 1952, and each subsequent year there is a new theme (2006 was the 49th performance). This year, the theme was all about the Hanakanzashi through the Four Seasons (花簪四季彩) - where hana kanzashi is the hair ornaments worn by the maiko. If anyone wants to see a really good source of information on all things geisha, check out Mboogiedown: Japan... though unfortunately she hasn't been blogging for a couple of years now.

The Gion Kaikan is a cinema that is used occassionally for such events... and it has the feel of antiquity when decked out for the dances. I get the feeling when used as a cinema, it just has the feel of old - not antique. Our seats weren't too bad, about 1/3 back, and to the left (near the musicians). As the lights dimmed down, the curtain raised and music began it's slow, rhythmical beat.

Musical accompaniment... this is what comes of old geisha. A chilling thought

ACT 1 - MANEKI (第一景 まねき)

The first act/dance centred around the maneki hanakanzashi, which are worn in December of each year - at this time, the maiko would traditionally visit the Minamiza Theatre. They wear two maneki, or blank tags, where the Kabuki actors can write their autographs... you can see them below and in the photo right at the start of this post.


Fumiki and Umeha

This dance is about a young maiko's experience of overcoming her shyness to ask her favourite Kabuki actor for his favour....beyond that, the detail was lost on me.

Masayo... looking like she's riding an imaginary motor-bike

Masayo was the highest ranking maiko at the Gion Higashi Kabu-kai, and hence had the main starring role in the opening scene.
Masayo... a little more demure

I've thrown (with some considerable embarrassment) some of our really bad digi-cam video in to give a better feel for the dance... The quality's woeful, the cameraman (me) shaky, the zoom atrocious... but it was just something we did on the spur of the moment. This was taken back in the days when video off small compacts was... well let's face it... bad. Hope it helps you feel the performance.

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