Friday, November 24, 2017

Yosakoi Tribute to Bunraku

Imamiya High School's dance team paid tribute to one Japanese performing art with another Japanese performing art.

Bunraku 文楽
Bunraku is the art in which puppets are used to perform dramatic theatrical tales. The art style originated in Osaka in the Edo 1600s. The puppets used employ elaborate mechanisms to control their facial expression. The puppeteers are divided into two visible classes; the master puppeteers who are clearly visible and regular puppeteers who are completely cloaked in black including a black hood which they wear over their faces to disappear into dark stages and not draw attention away from the puppets. Bunraku theaters also employ chanters who add narration and dialog to the movements of the puppets while musician, who usually play shamisen, play in the background.
Osaka is home to the National Bunraku Theater (near Nipponbashi station).
Click this link to see an introductory video from the Bunraku National Theater:

Yosakoi よさこい
Yosakoi is a modern dance form which blends a founding piece of prototypical music with modern pop music as lively dancing choreograph large groups for musical numbers in colorful costumes.
In many yosakoi performances you will see the use of quick-change costumes; performers reveal successive layers of costuming with contrasting colors.
A staple feature in yosakoi is the use of "naruko," wooden clackers which accompany booming pre-recorded music.
The peformances of yosakoi are typical for festivals of many types in Japan, including many festivals that are dedicated entirely to yosakoi.

An outdoor bunraku performance at the Osaka Museum of History.
This is a scene from the Sanbaso dance.
Kotobuku shiki Sanbaso.
From the Keiji category of bunraku performances, as it is ceremonial and inspired by Noh plays.

Meccha Happy Matsuri めっちゃハッピ祭
The Meccha Happy Matsuri is an annual event held in Osaka in the area around Osaka Castle in early October.
A variety of teams perform at the festival; including nursery school children and people with mental disabilities.
In the past, the festival has been free to view at venues that were open to the public. In 2017, Meccha Happy Matsuri was held in Osaka-Jo Hall with a nominal entry fee (500 yen with a free program). Being staged in Osaka-Jo Hall (a major venue for professional concerts) introduced improved sound systems and stage lighting. The performers also brought unusually elaborate props which were an impressive demonstration of yosakoi as an art-form.

Of particular note was the performance by Imamiya High School. They blended elements of bunrakku into their yosakoi for an impressive tribute.
Imamiya High School is located in Osaka, near the Bunraku National Theater.
Their tribute to Bunraku demonstrated a variety of references to theatrical performances that have been featured, if not pioneered, at the local theater.

Looking closely at the video you can distinguish specific influences:
The large group of samurai represent the 47 Ronin and the Bunraku play "Chushingara."whi
The white foxes are a reference to the play "Okuniwa Kitsunebi"
The lovers represent the popular "Sonezaki Shinju" which was inspired by a local story of a lovers' suicide.
The costumes with the gold and black hats are taken from the Sanbaso dance (pictured above).
Of course, there are also the black hooded puppeteers who have inspired the Japanese pop culture imagination in depictions of ninja (as well as the referees from Samurai Shodown).