Terminology

(go) aisatsu – greeting

butai – stage

furi – pantomimic movement. Broadly – any gesture, attitude, or movement of the body. Narrowly – choreography.

Iemoto – literally: “family foundation” – Traditional arts in Japan are typically taught through hierarchically organized schools. Each school has it’s own set of particular traditions and the Iemoto, or Grand Master, is the final authority on all things artistic in the school. The position is often hereditary, either through direct line or adoption.

kai – a club or gathering (e.g., odori no kai –  dance recital)

kamite – left side of stage from the performer’s perspective; “stage left”

katsura – wig

(o) keiko – noun or verb for practice, training, or study

kesho – make-up

kimono – In modern usage, this term refers to a particular type of traditional Japanese robe. Kimono, or their cotton cousins yukata, are traditionally worn to every practice as well as performance. This is particularly important in dance since the kimono itself is used in many dance movements.

kitsuke – to dress, often used to refer to being dressed or dressing in kimono

kodogu – stage/dance props

koken – stage/dance assistance, usually dressed in black

maku – curtain, backdrop

Nagauta – literally: “long song” – A kind of traditional Japanese music which accompanies the kabuki theater. It was developed around 1740.

natori – literally: “name-takers” – The professional or “stage” name bestowed students who pass a school’s qualifying examination recognizing them as master performers. The term can also be used to refer to the  person who holds the name. Natori names are identified in green on this website.

nihon buyo – literally: “Japanese dance” – An artistic dance form based on the tradition of classical techniques drawn from older forms of art, and interpreted for the stage. Nihon buyo draws heavily from Kabuki and Noh dance but has also been influenced by folk and religious dance forms.

obi – literally: “sash” – The decorative sash worn with a kimono. The obi for men’s kimono is rather narrow, 10 centimeters (3.9 in) wide at most, but a woman’s formal obi can be 30 centimeters (12 in) wide and more than 4 meters (13 ft) long. Obi are categorized by their design, formality, material, and use. We often practice dance in informal obi, called hanhaba, which are narrower and shorter and are typically worn with yukata.

odori – dance

(o) rei – thanks, gratitude (e.g., orei is given by a performer at a major dance recital to those she/he wishes to express special thanks to)

reigi – etiquette, courtesy

seito – student

sensei – teacher, instructor

sensu – Any folding paper and bamboo fan can be called a sensu, but dancers use a specific type, called maisen or maiogi, that has weights inlaid into the bones near the hinge and large gaps between the spokes. The weights and gaps are necessary in order to do certain fan tricks and the stiff paper allows the fan to remain fully opened even when not being held. Once the paper has been softened by repeated use, the fan will start to sag closed and can no longer be used. (See our Summer 2006 Newsletter 2 under the Multi-Media page for more information on fans.)

shamisen – A three stringed instrument typically played by plucking the strings with a triangular plectrum (bachi). The neck of a shamisen has no frets and it’s small, drum-like rounded rectangular body is taut front and back with skin (similar to a banjo), which amplifies the sound of the strings.

shihan – a teaching certificate presented to performers who pass a school’s qualifying examination.

shiken – exam or test

shimote – right side of stage from the performers perspective, “stage right”

(o) shisho – a master instructor/teacher

(go) shokai – an introduction

(go) shugi – a celebration, congratulations, congratulatory gift, gratuity (e.g., goshugi is given at a major dance recital by the performer to those who helped with make-up, dancing, dressing, etc. Fellow performers and audience members also give goshugi as a congratulatory gift.)

yukata – cotton unlined kimono

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