Goyokai by Mr. Minosuke Nishikawa

In Tokyo, I took lessons of traditional Japanese dance from Mr. Minosuke Nishikawa (Minosuke-Sensei), who is an eldest son of Prof. Senzo Nishikawa, one of human national treasures in Japan. Recently I received a note of invitation to Goyokai, which means “Five Luster Society”, from Minosuke-Sensei.


In New York, many people tend to regard traditional Japanese dance as accomplishment by geishas under the influence of some Japanese movies, while it is only one aspect of Japanese culture. It’s said that there are more than 200 schools in traditional Japanese dance now. Among them, Hanayagi, Fujima, Wakayagi, Nishikawa and Bando are called five major schools.

Each major school has a unique character. Minosuke-sensei told me “Dance in Fujima, Bando, or Nishikawa School is bold, because it was originated in accomplishment at Kabuki. Dance in Hanayagi or Wakayagi School is sensitive, because it was originated in accomplishment at reception rooms.” My mother recommended me to study dance in Hanayagi School, but because I have been buried in kabuki, I can tend to see traditional Japanese dance which reminds me of the tales of kabuki, like dance in Bando or Nishikawa School. Actually I didn’t like to dance by myself. In my childhood I started studying traditional Japanese dance, but I felt it waggly and laughed at my own dance, so I couldn’t take my lesson seriously. More than likely, I was very happy to take Noh lessons, which I started studying later by chance. Especially I loved feeling of tension when I shouted heartily.

After much meandering, I have learned traditional Japanese dance from Minosuke-sensei. In these lessons, I seemed to become a heroine of the tales, unlike just to play or dance a traditional Japanese dance. When I performed a dance “Treasure Ship”, I should play as Hotei-san, one of the 7 gods of happiness: putting a fan in front of my stomach, spreading my legs like a crab, making my pelvis down, declining my body to one side, and going further to another side. It was really amusing! I was always thinking whether I would look like Hotei-san, if I were dancing at the stage.

I find some description about traditional Japanese dance at the web page of the Japanese Dance Association.

Embodying elements of performing arts which originated earlier, such as “Bugaku”, ceremonial performance of the Imperial Court and “Nohgaku”, Noh theater and its
origins, and incorporating the refined essence of a range of folk arts, traditional Japanese dance can be described as a treasury of Japanese art from ancient to modern times.
Over a history of nearly four centuries, traditional Japanese dance acquired its many aspects, represented today in Kabuki Buyo based in the Kabuki theater, Kamigata Mai and Kyo Mai traditionally performed in more compact, Tatami-matted Zashiki spaces, and creative, original dancing.

It has carried on the craft transmitted from Noh and other performing arts that can be traced back three hundred years earlier, and it has incorporated techniques refined in later eras. In this sense, traditional Japanese dance has been accomplished through a repeated process of polishing.
To summarize, traditional Japanese dance is an artistic dance based on the tradition of classical techniques transmitted from preceding forms of art, and expressed through the medium of the stage.

(Cited and modified from “What is nihon buyo?”)

I realize that I enjoyed learning traditional Japanese dance more because I learned Noh dance at the same period.

Minosuke-sensei sent me the following message; “I launched Goyokai with other four independent Japanese dancers in their forties. We desire to let us recognize traditional Japanese dance as not only culture lesson, but also stage art, which is appreciated by more people.” The world of dance by Minosuke-sensei is really a stage with stories, which we have sympathy with. If you feel performance time of Kabuki too long, you had better see fast-paced traditional Japanese dance and feel its narrativity. Thereafter, if you see Kabuki performance on the similar story, you could easily understand the story. I think that it is interesting to make a comparison of means of expression between Kabuki and Japanese dance on the similar story.

When I told Minosuke-sensei about the article “Wrestling the Silk” on the New York Times, which were published on my kimono class in April, he primarily sent me a message; “Wonderful!” I was very pleased with his message. I appreciate him very much. If I didn’t learn Japanese dance from him, I would be different now.

If you are interested in Goyokai, please see the web page at http://www.goyokai.com/.


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