Review: WAVES ACROSS TIME: TRADITIONAL DANCE AND MUSIC OF OKINAWA at Kennedy Center

The production ran on March 22nd.

By: Mar. 25, 2022
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Review: WAVES ACROSS TIME: TRADITIONAL DANCE AND MUSIC OF OKINAWA at Kennedy Center
Performer in Japan Society's production of Waves Across Time: Traditional Dance and Music of Okinawa. Photo courtesy of the production by Ryohei Oshiro.

Japan Society's Waves Across Time: Traditional Dance and Music of Okinawa is a beautiful and lively presentation of Okinawan culture displayed by multiple stories told through song and dance. This show was a lovely one-night event put on at the Kennedy Center, where the experience was unlike any other performance I have seen thus far. The combination of the music, dancing, acting, and exquisite colors displayed by attire of the company brought the show to life, telling the many different stories of Okinawa. Traditional court dances and popular/folk dances were utilized in this performance to showcase the different styles of dance that are appreciated in the culture.

The first act of this performance was where traditional court dances were shown off, known as Kumiodori. Originating in the 18th century, by Ryukyu kingdom's dance magistrate, the experiences of noh (Japanese theatre) and kabuki (Japanese popular drama) were combined to create this style of theatre. The first dance, Sakamoto-bushi, set the stage with the two women of the group moving completely in sync to the rhythm of castanets. With very slow and careful movements, being completely precise, dancers Takana Kojima and Sayuri Chibana put on a captivating performance to open the show. From that first dance, I knew it was going to be a great production.

Review: WAVES ACROSS TIME: TRADITIONAL DANCE AND MUSIC OF OKINAWA at Kennedy Center
Performers in Japan Society's production of Waves Across Time: Traditional Dance and Music of Okinawa. Photo courtesy of the production by Ryohei Oshiro.

The second dance, titled Takadera Manzai, performed by the National Theatre Okinawa's Artistic Director, Michihiko Kakazu, is where I really grasped how this show was more than a dance performance, but also a combination of Okinawa's stories. This dance exhibited much more swift and cunning movements, representing two brothers who would disguise themselves as street performers with the intent to take revenge on their father's enemy. From the music and movements, you felt the urgency and determination that Kakazu brought while dancing as both brothers. Differing from Sakamoto-bushi, this piece brought the sense of drama to the table, relating to the kabuki style as mentioned. Along with that, we had the last piece of the first act, Shinobi no Ba (A Scene of Secrecy) from Temizu no En, which was a beautiful portrayal of a secret romance between a young man and woman. Dancers Takahiro Uehara and Takumi Tamaki gave a lovely and heartfelt performance, showing the love that the two characters felt for each other, even if it was under difficult circumstances. The body language the performers utilized to portray the feelings their characters had were translated very well through the dance.

After a brief intermission, we were privileged to witness the second act of the show. Introducing the popular/folk dances called Zo Odori, where professional performers had to seek out a way to survive after the dissolution of the Ryukyu Kingdom in 1879. These dances have more energy and cheer exhibited, separating from the traditional Kumiodori style of the first act. Starting off with Sayuri Chibana's performance in Hamachidori. This dance represents the story of a woman seeking out to go on a journey. Known as one of the Zo Odori dance masterpieces, Chibana gave a wonderful performance with lively but delicate movements, indicating the hope for her character's new journey.

The second dance of act two was Hatoma-bushi, a light and fun dance performed by Michihiko Kakazu and Takahiro Uehara, intended as a sign of a fine harvest. This was one of my favorite dances of the night as the dancers gave such life to the piece. Being completely in sync, similar to the first dance of the night, this not only made for a satisfying performance, but also just very interesting to watch. Kakazu and Uehara both gave an enjoyable show and also seemed to enjoy it at the same time, which is one of the best things to see at a performance. Next, Bu no Mai, a modern dance, was performed by Sayuri Chibana and Takumi Tamaki. Matching the energy from Hatoma-bushi, but intensifying it with martial arts movement, was an impressive performance to witness. What was specifically pleasant to me was seeing both a man and a woman display such moments of strength and power through karate. Showing that this art has no gender, it's the person that is capable all on their own no matter who they are.

Review: WAVES ACROSS TIME: TRADITIONAL DANCE AND MUSIC OF OKINAWA at Kennedy Center
Performer in Japan Society's production of Waves Across Time: Traditional Dance and Music of Okinawa. Photo courtesy of the production by Ryohei Oshiro.

Kanayo Amakawa is the other piece indicating a love story between the two characters, portrayed by Takana Kojima and Michihiko Kakazu. This dance tells the story of a man and woman whose love is represented by the deep Amakawa River. They have a deep love for each other and they continue to remind each other that their love will last forever. The movements associated with the music indicate the youthfulness their love gives them as Kojima and Kakazu dance together in an energetic fashion. Lastly, is the entertaining story of Murasakae, a comedy including two couples who are very different, but very amusing when together. This is the most theatrical piece of the show as it includes dialogue along with the music and dancing. It transitions from a comedic scene into a celebration among the entire company. This was a great piece to end the show with, recognizing the talent of all of the dancers: Michihiko Kakazu, Takumi Tamaki, Takahiro Uehara, Takana Kojima, and Sayuri Chibana, as well as the talented musicians accompanying the entire performance. The Uta-Sanshin (voice and sanshin (string instrument)): Itsuo Nakamura, Kazuki Tamashio, and Yoshimori Nakamine; Hokuto Ikema on the koto (string instrument), Satoshi Iritakenishi on the fue (flute), and Yukihiro Gushi on the taiko (drum). I also want to recognize those who helped bring the production together: the shido (coaching) from Osamu Aka, Seiken Majikina, Yasuharu Higa, and Takako Sato.

I'm very glad I was able to attend this special performance and learn more about a culture I was not as familiar with. The Japan Society put on a wonderful show with many stories and styles of both traditional and popular dance styles. If they travel to a city near you, I encourage you to possibly venture out from what you're familiar with and go watch this talented company.

Running time: 1 hour and 25 minutes with an intermission.

Waves Across Time: Traditional Dance and Music of Okinawa was a one-night only performance on March 22, 2022 at the Kennedy Center located at 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566.

For more information on this show, click here.

Proof of vaccination and identification, as well as wearing a mask, were required for viewing of this production.



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