Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tengai Dance, Omoto Kagura



This short video is from my favorite of all the Omoto Kagura dances. The tengai is the canopy above a kagura performance space. The kami descend through the colored paper streamers and into the dancers.

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The tengai dance is unusual in that it is not humans who dance, but the tengai itself. I have not come across anything like this anywhere else in japan, and I have a lot more research to do to understand it.

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For Omoto kagura there is a somewhat different tengai, among the paper streamers are lantern/box like structures.

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The boxes are connected by ropes to the priests who sit at the side of the area.

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Before the dance begins long streamers inside the boxes are unfurled and hang down. I suspect the writing on them has daoist or esoteric buddhist meaning, as Omoto Kagura was brought to this area by Yamabushi of Shugendo.

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The dance begins slowly with the boxes being lowered and raised slowly, gradually the tempo increases and then lateral movement, swinging, and twisting all begin. As with normal kagura, at times audience members or musicians will shout when a particularly fine sequence of movements are executed.

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I've seen the Tengai dance performed by 3 priests, and once by only 2 priests, and was stunned by the intricacy and complexity of the movements created.

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