Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sword Dance Extraordinaire


I am a huge fan of kagura, and have seen hundreds and hundreds of dances over the years, most, but not all, Iwami kagura from my local area. While it is still fascinating seeing the variations of dances that different groups perform, it is nowadays rare to see a dance that I had not see before.


So it was with great anticipation I saw something at a performance by a kagura group from down near Masuda. There are basically two types of dance, masked-theatrical which was in earlier times performed by the villagers as entertainment in between the shinji, ceremonial dances, usually performed by the priests. There is a lot of crossover between the two, one being the use of torimono, objects carried by the dancers. Swords are often used as torimono.


I had never seen this kind before, 2 groups of 6 blades, crossed over and held together with material so they could be held. These are real blades, maybe not razor sharp, but still dangerous. At first the solitary dancer performed with these blades in his hand. later a shorter, double pointed blade was held between his teeth while he danced.


The finale to the dance was completely unexpected as the dancer started doing somersaults on the floor while holding all the blades. The roots of the dance is obviously with the shamanic, trance dances that are ultimately the origin of modern Iwami Kagura.


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