I used to be involved in a Japanese dance troupe in New York city. Most people aren’t familiar with the dance style, and describing it as akin to kabuki still drew blank looks. Below is a link to a clip of Geiko Miehina playing shamisen and Maiko Fukunae dancing. Miehina is a full-fledged geisha, while Fukunae is an apprentice, which shows in her clothing and hairstyle. Mai means dance, and maiko, woman of dance (the “gei” in geisha, or geiko in Kyoto dialect, means art). See a photograph of Fukunae’s omisedashi (start of business, or first day as a maiko) below.
Within the dance, there is a correct place for your feet, your head, your hands, and even your eyes – at all times. There are breathless golden moments in which you do not move, or breathe. The body of the dancer frames images that the song brings forth, views of mountains, shy looks, the power of goddesses, the joking of street minstrels, rain on an afternoon. The fan is precisely managed in the hand, the lead weights in the guards assist in righting it when the fan is tossed in the air. Your thumbs are tucked against your palm, hands curving into an elegant shape. You learn not only to place your feet for the dance, but also to use your feet to maneuver the trailing hem of your kimono. Observe her crouch, never are her knees locked – try it for a minute or two, and then try to walk while maintaining that crouch, knees always pressed together. Not only does the dancer’s body have to be strong to excel at the dance, the maiko must also gracefully carry the weight of 30-40 extra pounds of clothing, much of it concentrated in the densely woven obi dangling from her shoulder blades.
Click here for the video: Maiko dance