Dancing their socks off

Nihon Buyo, Japan's venerable two-toed art form, arrives in London

Japan's oldest traditional dance form, Nihon Buyo, is coming to Britain. "It is a slow and subtle dance combined with vigorous stamping and turning movements," says You-Ri Yamanaka, who is acting as the UK co-ordinator for the Nihon Buyo company's UK debut. The simple stage-set will consist of a Japanese woven cloth; music will be played by 11 musicians and three singers.

Japan's oldest traditional dance form, Nihon Buyo, is coming to Britain. "It is a slow and subtle dance combined with vigorous stamping and turning movements," says You-Ri Yamanaka, who is acting as the UK co-ordinator for the Nihon Buyo company's UK debut. The simple stage-set will consist of a Japanese woven cloth; music will be played by 11 musicians and three singers.

The 13 Nihon Buyo dancers look highly theatrical, sporting chalk-white faces, heavy wigs, two-toed tabi socks and elaborate kimonos. "The cotton socks help the dancers grip when they slide on the wooden floor, and two toes is more graceful than five," Yamanaka says. "In Nihon Buyo, the weight is grounded; they don't really ever jump up as in Western dance. For the solo work Tomoyakko ( The Attendant), a comical dance of a servant who has mislaid his master in a red-light district, the dancer wears bright purple socks and flip-flops.

"In a kimono, you can't see how the dancers use their body, but they are using a lot of muscles and twisting their bodies. They try not to show their hard work directly to the audience as in Western ballet, where you see all the beautiful shapes. We contain our movement and the feeling inside ourselves, and then express it less obviously."

Nihon Buyo is recorded in Japan's oldest history book, Kojiki, completed AD712. But it was not until the early- 17th-century performer Izumo- no-Okuni appeared on the scene with a primitive dance that Nihon Buyo as a performing art really took off. Schools were founded and the different strains of dance passed down.

Nishikawa Senzo X, born in 1928, is the star performer and a national treasure in Japan. He set up the Nihon Buyo Foundation in 1990 and has been teaching and performing for nearly 60 years. He is to dance in the final, 40-minute performance, Kumagai Rensho, the world premiere of a story about a Samurai warrior who must kill his own son to save the emperor's illegitimate son.

"There were 5,000 dances, but now we have only 250," Yamanaka says. "Some of them got lost as they were passed down generations and others were not relevant any more."

Although the basic movements are similar in every work, the different characters in a story are defined by a change in music, choreography, make-up, wig and costume. Senkei is performed by six male dancers bearing fans. "They express their feelings and depict the natural scenery with the fans," says Yamanaka. Shiokumi ( Tide-Gatherer) is danced by a woman in a lavish kimono, who expresses her affection for her lover. A synopsis of the story will be given in English before each dance. "If you know the story, all the movements in the performance will be quite moving."

Nihon Buyo, Peacock Theatre, London WC2 (0870 737 7737) 11 & 12 March; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-529 6000) 14 March

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits