On Sat Dec 16, I joined the fukagawa trainee Sasane’s dance class with Hanayagi sensei. The class took place in an apartment with wooden flooring and a mirrored wall. The class started with a kuota that was about how a couple’s love is not like a broken umbrella. Because the kuota was about an umbrella, Sasane started the dance with an umbrella in her hands. While Sasane is dancing, Hanayagi sensei stands by her and does the same dance but with a fan. A trainee learns a dance by imitating the sensei’s every move, simultaneously. In the beginning, it seems like Sasane knew the moves but towards the end, she looked at the sensei and imitated her. The sensei gives instructions or rather, words to guide the trainee through the moves. After dancing through the kuota once, it was played again and again, and they continued to dance together.
I was not used to seeing this because in other dance classes, for example ballet, the teacher watches the students dance and tells them what to do instead of dancing with the student repetitively. But I could tell why the Japanese dance was taught this way. The moves look very simple and slow, but are actually very precise and difficult to maintain. A slight difference in the placement of the hands or the angle of the ankles would make a huge difference in the overall feeling of the dance. Hanayagi sensei’s movement looked very elegant and graceful but at the same time it was stable and strong. On the other hand, Sasane’s movement looked more rough but weak compared to Hanayagi sensei. The years of dancing is shown through Hanayagi sensei’s every move.
After learning the first kuota, Sasane performed “Sakura.” While Sasane danced, Hanayagi sensei sat on the floor and did the moves with her fan. However, her moves differed from Sasane’s. This was because there are different versions or choreography for the same song. Different teachers would teach trainees different choreography for the same song, so it is difficult to get geishas from different teachers to match their choreography for one song to perform together.
Overall, it was a great experience to join a trainee’s dance class. Also, the three of us that were there learned the simplest dance, the first dance that trainees learn. Even though the moves are very easy, we all ended up looking silly while trying to dance. It truly made me realize how hard it is to dance as well as geishas. They hide all the work behind the movements with their elegance and their gracefulness to capture the beauty of Japanese dance. Geishas do live up to their name,藝者, as they are creators of art.