Kyo Odori

April 7, 2010

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to one of the annual spring dances, Kyo Odori. The Gion geiko and maiko perform these every year at five different theatres in Kyoto. I had seen the Miyako Dori before but the Kyo Dori was a little different. It is performed by maiko and geiko of Miyagawa-cho Kabu-kai. It is held at the Miyagawa-cho Kaburen-jo Theater and the dancers perform some short skits taken from places and things in Kyoto, as well as dances about the coming of the spring. Of course, the kimono were incredibly beautiful – in particular a rich teal furisode (long-sleeved kimono) with flowing water patterns down the sleeves. The geiko wore black kimono with waves lapping around their feet. The poses they struck during the dances, and the shapes they created were stunning. They made quick little running steps, kicking the length of their kimono out of the way with their tabi-encased feet, coyly hiding behind fans or slowly wafting them to depict the warm spring air. It was enchanting.

Before the dance, geiko and maiko served us matcha and a sweet. I was surprised that we could take the little porcelain plate home with us as a souvenir.

We could take photographs in the theatre before the performance but not during it. As always, when asked not to take photographs I respect the wishes of those that ask. Unfortunately the group of foreigners in front of me did not. They were asked to stop taking photographs at least three times during the performance, and still tried to sneakily take shots whilst looking over their shoulders for the attendants. Not only did this disturb other patrons, it is deeply disrespectful. They were so busy trying to take photographs it seemed they couldn’t even enjoy the performance anyway. When visitors behave this way it is hardly surprising Japanese hesitate to open their traditional culture to those from outside.

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