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Published on 06.07.2016
Ryukyu Dance developed in 15th century as a royal court dance to welcome high-ranking officials from foreign world. It is an indispensable part of the local culture in Okinawa. Okinawa Island surrounded by sea, presents spectacular beauty under the illumination of the sun’s ray. The life and culture of Okinawa is highly influenced by the sea. Native Okinawa believes and considers sea as an abode of gods. While the spirit of prayer is cited, it manifest to a song finally leading to opening the way to perform art. Songs and dance has always been a vehicle for expressing the emotions and feelings of Okinawa people. The Ryukyuan court culture rooted distinctively centuries ago when the Kingdom of Ryukyu attained wealth and prosperity as the agent of entrepot trade between China, Southeast Asia and Japan which finnaly emerged to take place alongside the great culture of the world.
Ryukyuan dance is divided into four genres which are products of different social-historical conditions. Clssical dance, zo-odori, modern dance and folk dance are the four genre of Ryukyuan dance.
The classical dance also called ‘court dance’ is divided into several subcategories namely elderly’s people dance, boy’s dance, women’s dance and young boy’s dance. One of the most important dance is Zo odori dance which was created by professional dancers based on the daily lives of the people dwelling in farming and fishing communities in response to changing cultural needs. It conveys an atmosphere of radiant emancipation.
Dance Costumes and Accoutrement
The costumes manifests the aesthetic underlying Ryukyuan dance. In the ‘women’s dances’ of the classical repertoire, the dancers appear in stage in kimono made from fabric dyed in the bingata style. The designs are created by means of stencils featuring such motifs as flowers, birds, waves, and couds. This traditional Ryukyun style of textile-dyeing is noted for its use of highly vivid coloration. The more intense the emotional atmosphere of a dance, the more the motion of the primary colors which helps to fuel the imagination of spectators. A variety of accoutrements came to be used in the costumes to emphasize the theme of the dance and to project its aesthetic effect.
The Music of Okinawa
The instruments of Okinawa music are both of Chinese and Japanese origin, the main musical scale is similar to one of the two scale of Japanese music and has parallels in Southeast Asia. The Sanshin is a three-stringed plucked lute of southern Chinese origin. Ability to perform this instrument was considered an important attribute of a man of culture among members of Shuri nobility.
Dive into the bliss of Ryukyuan dance by watching this spectacular video of a foreigner performing it.