Dance costume (3) – Awa Odori, women

October 11, 2009

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Awa Dance Promotional Association. Origin: east Shikoku.
Dances/costumes: Awa Odori has been preserved and performed for more than 400 years. Dance band made up of drums, flute, shamisens and singer. Small group of male and female dancers. The women wear silk kimono (crepe silk in pale grey/pink with karabana and other motifs), black obi with pink obijime and dance in red and black geta with their feet leaning forward the whole time (!), with straw cloche hats; at the waist they carry a small bag on cord as well as a jade disk with knotted dangle – a netsuke and inro; men are dressed in festival hanten, heko obi and white tabi (the heavy-duty dancing type that zip apart at the heel). I gather that while Awa Odori might have started in Tokushima Pref., it must have been replicated in other places, like Shikoku.

The dancers in the dance troups were almost all very young, reminding me of the Japanese university students who enrol in traditional science/sport universities and study traditional dance as part of their degrees. Some of those from the Awa Dance Promotional Association however were older and remarkably stylish. I came away with the distinct impression that the “updating” of the music (only that of the ADPA was traditional with its oldtime dance band) is being used to attract the next generation to these dances, that there’s probably a lot of competition between dance groups in particular regions especially when it comes to vying for the honour of dancing overseas in places like Singapore, Hawaii, etc.

The first photo shows the dances preparing to line up; the second shows them lined up ready to start.

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And they’re off!

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The speed of the dance and the fact that the women are dancing on the front tips of their geta makes this visually spectacular.

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Notice the square fans tucked into the back of the obi, as well as the obi accessories (inro and netsuke)- worn also by the men, as seen in the next set of photos.

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