The Nihon Buyo: Telling a Story Through Dance

A Japanese dancer holds up a folding fan. She holds it up to her chin and tilts her head back, using the folding fan to mimic a cup to aid in expressing the gesture of drinking. She quickly flips it upside down with a gentle fluttering motion of her wrist, and now the same fan represents falling snow.

The beautifully choreographed movements of a Japanese dancer doesn’t tell the whole story of Nihon Buyo. Nihon Buyo is a classical Japanese dance evolved from the traditional forms of Japanese Kabuki theatre to modern day performances, communicating a story through dance. It is through these pre-set movements and pantomime that dancers perform poems, legends or stories.

To better tell the story and set the scene, costuming is important. Seasoned audiences can easily identify the character each dancer embodies just by looking at the style of the dancer’s kimono and body language.

For example, in the popular movie Memoirs of a Geisha, Sayuri’s movements in Snow Dance is simple. It is within that simplicity that emotions, presence and each body movement becomes more profound, as she tells the story of unrequited love. Each movement matched the music and represented an emotion, each detail is significant.

In 1629, the Japanese government banned women from the kabuki stage, and Nihon Yuyo evolved into an art form independent of the kabuki world. Towards the end of the Meiji period (1868~1912), prominent literary figure Shoyo Tsubouchi proposed that a new dance style (buyo geki) should be created to represent the new era of Japanese history of the Meiji Restoration. This name change from the Japanese word for dance, buto to buyo became the starting point in the Taisho period (1912~1926) where Nihon Buyo evolved into an independent dance art and style in its own right. Nihon Buyo now incorporates influences of ballet and Japanese folk performances to explore the different ways to express oneself through dance.

Lladró’s Japanese Dancer

This beautiful Japanese Dancer is made in matt porcelain, with gracefully decorated details on her kimono juxtaposed with the strong and vivid bronze folding fans. Metallic pink and a new pearlescent lustre is used to subtly bring attention to her face and the handcrafted details. The white and bronze wisteria flower in her hair represents love, sensuality, support, sensitivity, bliss and tenderness in Kabuki theater.

For other informative posts on Japaneses culture:

Back to blog