Ashmolean presents Shishi-Odori Japanese Dance Performance on September 6

The Ashmolean Museum presents a Shishi-Odori Japanese Dance Performance September 6 on the Ashmolean Forecourt at 1–1.45pm.

The Troupe has been invited to Britain by the Japan Foundation to perform in the Mayor’s Thames Festival (8 and 9 September) as part of the closing celebrations for London 2012. The dancers will perform a Shishi-Odori (deer dance) on the Museum forecourt, bringing one of the cultural traditions of the Tohoku region of Japan to a UK audience.

Shishi-Odori is a performing art tradition handed down through generations in Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture, areas in Tohoku, northeast Japan. The performance is popular all over Japan for its dynamic dance and characteristic appearance, with dancers wearing headgear called Shishi-Gashira (deer mask), two long Sasara sticks on their backs and a cloth draped around their bodies. The total weight of the outfits, including drums and Sasara, is 15 to 20 kilograms.

The Tohoku region was one of the prime areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. Shishi-Odori has been performed on numerous occasions at disaster-hit areas to offer prayers for the victims, playing a key role in bringing the people of the region together. Participants in this UK visit include the leader and two dancers from the Kanatsu-Ryu (Kanatsu style) Urahama Shishi-Odori Troupe, based in Ofunato City, an area where many local communities were washed away in the tsunami. The leader said, “The Shishi-Odori, as well as other folk performing arts, gives us the power to get over all of the sorrow and move forward. That’s why we continue to dance at this difficult time.”

The Japan Foundation has invited the Oshu Kanatsu-Ryu Dance Troupe to the United Kingdom for the first time to celebrate cultural diversity in the UK and to demonstrate a vital art from the Tohoku region. Through their performances at Thameside venues, the Shishi-Odori dancers will show their dynamic and sophisticated performances while expressing wishes for the repose of those who lost their lives in last year’s disaster and for the recovery of the affected areas.

The Japan Foundation
The Japan Foundation is Japan’s public institution dedicated to sharing Japanese culture and language with people throughout the world. By presenting diverse aspects of Japanese culture, the Japan Foundation creates platforms of communication and understanding between the peoples of the world and Japan. Visit: (Head Office); (London Office)

Oshu Kanatsu-Ryu Dance Troupe
The Kanatsu-Ryu (Kanatsu Style) is said to have originated during the Edo Period (1603-1867), when the Shishi-Odori was passed on from Miyagi Prefecture to residents of the city of Esashi (now Oshu City), and to this day has been handed down through generations as a religious performing art. Although numerous dance troupes have formed and disbanded over the years, the Kanatsu-Ryu has long maintained its dynamic and sophisticated performance and remains one of the leading Shishi-Odori styles. Kanatsu-Ryu troupes, beginning with Kanatsu-Ryu Yanagawa Shishi-Odori (Yanagawa Deer Dance Troupe), which is a designated intangible folk cultural asset of Iwate Prefecture, have presented their dance at various places in Japan and overseas in the United States, Russia and Bulgaria. The performers invited to the UK are members of the Yanagawa, Ide, Karuishi, Urahama and Matsuyama dance troupes which represent this tradition, deriving from Oshu and Ofunato cities in Iwate, and Osaki city in Miyagi.

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