In Mexico, a Japanese conventional dancer exhibits how physique motion speaks past tradition and faith

MEXICO CITY — When music requires her to cry, Japanese conventional dancer Naoko Kihara barely alters her expression. It’s her arms and torso that transfer like a slow-motion wave.

“Expression is minimal because we cry with our body,” stated Kihara, wrapped in her white and navy kimono, on a latest day at her dancing studio in Mexico, the place an estimated 76,000 Japanese descendants dwell.

“It is the dance that is speaking, interpreting, since we do not smile, shout or laugh.”

Kihara received’t reveal her age, however she’s been practising Japanese conventional dance for nearly 24 years. Born in Brazil from Japanese mother and father who later moved to Mexico City, she carries on the legacy of Tamiko Kawabe, her mentor and pioneer of Hanayagi-style dance within the nation.

For Latin American audiences, Kihara stated, Japanese conventional dance could be laborious to embrace.

Unlike the fast-moving interpreters of samba and salsa – widespread in Brazil and Mexico – Hanayagi dancers transfer quietly and gently, performing just some strikes that their our bodies hold absolutely managed.

PHOTOS: In Mexico, a Japanese conventional dancer exhibits how physique motion speaks past tradition and faith

“Is this yoga?” a spectator as soon as requested Kihara, who responded: “No, it’s an interpretation.”

Some of her repertoires are virtually sacred. Japanese dances as Hanayagi and Kabuki have been traditionally carried out to honor the emperor, thought-about a consultant of god within the Shinto faith.

For conventional dancers, choreography is an indication of respect and no element is minor. How a girl holds her fan speaks of her sense of magnificence and honor.

“You are not taught a dance, but a way of living,” stated Aimi Kawasaki, a 21-year-old pupil of Kihara who will quickly journey to Tokyo hoping to obtain her dancing diploma.

Born in Mexico after her mother and father moved from Japan, Kawasaki says that Hanayagi is like ballet, however with an vital exception: While Japanese conventional dancers are delicate and stylish, they by no means stand on the tip of their toes or pull their our bodies towards the sky.

“A Japanese dancer is rather crouched,” Kawasaki stated, her instructor demonstrating the posture: agency torso, bent knees and toes shut collectively, as if she have been a flower rooted to the bottom.

“It’s to be humble,” Kawasaki stated, and since Japanese conventional dance maintains profound codes.

“We move our bodies close to the earth because we are part of nature,” Kihara stated. “It is a respect for the earth.”

In the Japanese worldview, Kihara stated, dance originated from earth, air, fireplace, and water. “That’s our essence; it’s our basis.”

To hold this in thoughts, every Hanayagi dancer takes an oath when receiving her diploma in Japan. It’s like a guide of honor, Kihara stated. A promise to protect one’s legacy.

Thirteen college students – seven of them on the fundamental degree – research in Ginreikai, her dancing studio.

“In our performances, it’s all about patience,” Kihara stated. “We call them ‘long songs,’ because they are not plays with a beginning nor an end.”

Eiko Moriya, one other descendant of Japanese migrants who will quickly journey to Tokyo to get licensed, has spent the final three years perfecting the lengthy songs she’ll carry out earlier than the Hanayagi committee.

Her mentor watches her attentively whereas Moriya’s toes slide delicately over the wooden ground, and at all times supplies suggestions. “Move your foot only when the music asks for it. Be mindful of the rhythm. Don’t overbend your arm.”

“Dancing is a transformation,” Moriya stated. “Our dances are pieces of culture that are re-signified.”

The that means of their performances is conveyed by music and motion, Kihara stated. Even in entrance of international audiences who won’t perceive a Japanese track, their our bodies are their means to talk.

Her favourite lengthy track, a narrative about an unrequited love, portrays a princess satisfied that the person she loves has remodeled into the bell of the native temple. So, to get to him, she turns right into a snake.

“There are just a few movements, but each of them portrays her belief of transforming,” Kihara stated. “It is a story about anger, courage. It symbolizes the suffering of humanity.”

The songs that she and her colleagues carry out for Mexican audiences are shorter and fewer advanced than the unique Japanese lengthy songs – a dance can last as long as 5 minutes as an alternative of 20 or 30 – however creating new choreographies and variations for international eventualities doesn’t diminish her pleasure.

“Through Japanese dance, we connect,” she stated. “It is an exchange of cultures.”

“Ginrekai,” which interprets into “silver mountain,” was the title chosen by her predecessor for the college as a result of she believed that Japan and Mexico share greater than their sacred volcanoes. If Mount Fuji and Popocatépetl are so comparable, she used to say, it’s as a result of deep down we’re all the identical.

“At Ginrekai we have that cosmic vision,” Kihara stated. “Humanity is divided by religion, by culture, but for me, dancing is a way of saying: We are all one.”

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