Saturday, April 10, 2010


I'm reading about geisha (pronounced gay-sha and not gee-sha with both syllables receiving equal weight) right now as research toward a project that is sitting deep within a foggy region of my imagination.

I thought I would share some Kabuki dance and theatre today. The complexity and formality of this school of dance is far beyond my understanding at this point. (This is also a bit for Rebecca!)


Tess said...

Remarkable, I don't think I've ever watched Kabuki before. I found it very beautiful and unexpectedly moving. It also reminded me strongly of the control and precision of martial arts.
Thanks for the pronunciation note also, I always thought it was either gay-sha or geye-sha.

Amie aka MammaLoves said...

Thanks for sharing that. It was beautiful and so emotional to watch.

claire said...

Simply extraordinary, Christine.
The dignity, vulnerability, control, and power...
Thank you.

Barbara said...

I have seen Kabuki performed at the National Theatre in Tokyo. As I recall, it was not such a romantic piece. This was quite lovely and, as Tess pointed out, very controlled and precise, powerfully emotional. Every last gesture is prescribed and no innovation is tolerated in Kabuki. This is an onnagata or female character and is always played by a male actor. The role of an onnagata is passed from generation to generation in an acting family. This is all very traditional.

If you think this is controlled, you should see Noh theatre. It is about one-tenth as fast and the costumes are much more subdued. They go in for masks more often than face paint. A footstep can take 29 minutes, but the emotional content is overwhelming.

I do not know who told you how to pronounce geisha, but they were wrong. Geisha means, simply, an artist or purveyor of the arts. There are no diphthongs in Japanese, so the word is pronounced something like gey-ee-sha, but that i/ee is often swallowed sounding more like gey-sha with no syllable receiving greater weight.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Barbara, Thanks for catching the pronunciation thing -- I wrote it backwards. Oye. I've corrected it.

The book I'm reading, Women of the Pleasure Quarters, is by Lesley Downer, who gained unprecedented access to the geisha of Kyoto, which is the only place where the strict geisha training is still continued. The author had lived all over Japan for many decades before starting this research.