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Japan Society Tours Centuries-Old Dance and Music from Japan's Tsunami-Devastated Region in Rare U.S. Performances

Kuromori Kagura: Folk Music & Dance from Tohoku 

2 Performances Only! Saturday & Sunday, October 27 & 28, 2012, at Japan Society

**Part of a Four-city Tour** 

New York, NY – As part of its fall 2012/spring 2013 Performing Arts Season, Japan Society presents Kuromori Kagura: Folk Music & Dance from Tohoku, offering audiences an exclusive opportunity to experience the unique folk dance and music tradition from northeastern Japan, a culturally rich area that was deeply impacted by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. This extraordinary traditional program lands in New York as part of a four-city tour produced and organized by Japan Society, followed by stops in Middletown, CT (Wesleyan University); Philadelphia, PA (Philadelphia Museum of Art); and Baltimore, MD (Towson University). Kuromori Kagura plays at Japan Society Saturday, October 27 at 7:30pm, and Sunday, October 28 at 5:30pm; pre-performance lectures are availed to ticket holders one hour before show times, led by William Lee, Associate Professor and Director, Asian Studies Centre, University of Manitoba.

Kuromori Kagura, a centuries-old folk dance and music tradition, now designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Folk Asset by the Japanese government, is performed by artists hailing from towns devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. This group will share a selection of dances from its vast repertoire which includes furious jumps, brisk turns and whimsical moves accompanied by percussion and fue (Japanese flute), performed wearing elaborate masks and colorful costumes.

Featuring eleven performers, the time-honored pieces to be performed at Japan Society include: Uchinarashi music piece (an overture which begins the kagura ritual, summoning the gods, and includes fue, percussion and singing), Sakakiba (a brisk dance bringing forth the blessings of the gods), Ebisumai (prayer for prosperous fishing and safety at sea) and Matsumukae (celebration for the New Year and a prayer for world peace). 

Kagura is a traditional folk performing art form that incorporates dance and music and represents a demonstration of appreciation to the gods of Shintoism. The specific practice of Kuromori Kagura, which can be traced back more than 300 years, honors the divine spirit of the Kuromori Shrine, located in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. Once practiced by yamabushi, or mountain priests, today Kuromori Kagura is preserved and practiced in Miyako City by local individuals from the community who are referred to as kagura-shu, literally “kagura people.” The kagura-shu members are farmers, fishermen, and civil servants, among other occupations, who have trained in the art form from a very early age. Each year following the New Year, the kagura-shu embark on a tour of the Tohoku coastal area. On these tours, the kagura-shu offer good wishes and blessings to locals in each village they visit, through dance, music, and other rituals.

Looking toward the upcoming presentation, Japan Society Artistic Director Yoko Shioya comments, “The tradition of Kuromori Kagura is very special, as the group’s annual touring practice along Japan’s northern coastal region has survived to the present day primarily through the support and encouragement of local innkeepers and business owners along their touring routes. Following the destruction caused by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, many of these supporters were forced to close down their businesses, for a time endangering the future of this centuries-old practice.  By organizing a U.S. tour of Kuromori Kagura, we hope to play a small part in the preservation of this exceptional tradition and also, to share with a wider audience the true artistry in this practice.”

The fall 2012 four-city tour for Kuromori Kagura includes Japan Society (New York, NY), October 27 – 28; Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT), November 1; Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA), November 2; and Towson University (Baltimore, MD), November 3.

Related Family Event:
Kuromori Kagura: Traditional Music & Dance
Sunday, October 28, 11:00am

At this special event for families, children of all ages are invited to enjoy Kuromori Kagura's ritual dances. This event offers the opportunity to try basic kagura dance moves, participate in craft-making and receive good luck from the lion-shaped Gon-gen sculpture. Part of Japan Society's Japan's Annual Festivities series. 

Tickets are $12/$5 Japan Society members; children ages 2 or under free. Members may purchase tickets for family at the discounted price. Please see http://www.japansociety.org/event/kuromori-kagura-traditional-music-and-dance for details.

Since the inception of the Performing Arts Program in 1953, Japan Society has introduced more than 600 of Japan’s finest performing arts to an extensive American audience. Programs range from the traditional arts of noh, kyogen, bunraku and kabuki to cutting-edge theater, dance and music. The Program also commissions new works to non-Japanese artists, produces national tours, organizes residency programs for American and Japanese artists and develops and distributes educational programs. "At once diverse and daring, the program stands toe to toe with some of the most comprehensive cultural exchange endeavors today.” --Back Stage.

The current Fall 2012/Spring 2013 Performing Arts Season launched with the music offering Kinya Sogawa: Shakuhachi Exploration,co-presented with and performed at Roulette. Japan Society’s tradition of presenting boundary-pushing original music events continues with performances by the avant-garde pop music explorer Oorutaichi (November) and one of New York City’s unrivaled contemporary music ensembles Bang on a Can All-Stars (December) premiering two Society-commissioned pieces inspired by traditional Japanese paintings in Rimpa Reimagined. This season also marks the return of Japan Society’s Contemporary Dance Showcase (January), with the 15th installment running in conjunction with The Association for Performing Arts Presenters’ (APAP) annual New York conference. In addition, the season features the innovative Robot/Android + Human Theater (February) and the Annual Play Reading Series: Contemporary Japanese Plays in English Translation with Strolling Invader by Tomohiro Maekawa (April), introducing audiences to topical theater from Japan.

Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a world-class, multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

The New York City performances of Kuromori Kagura: Folk Music & Dance from Tohoku take place Saturday, October 27 at 7:30pm (followed by MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception), and Sunday, October 28 at 5:30pm.

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between First and Second Avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street). Tickets are $32 / $25 Japan Society members, and may be purchased by calling the Box Office at 212-715-1258, in person at Japan, or by visiting the website www.japansociety.org

The four-city American tour of Kuromori Kagura is produced and organized by Japan Society, and is supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan in the fiscal year 2012, The Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN program, and The Asahi Shimbun Foundation. The regional tour of Kuromori Kagura is made possible by a grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support for the New York engagement is provided by Dr. Stephen and Michiko Levine and Mitsubishi UFJ Foundation. Special thanks to the TOMODACHI Initiative and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception support is provided by MetLife Foundation. Major support for Japan Society 2012-2013 Performing Arts Programs is provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund and the Endowment for the Performing Arts, established with leadership gifts from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Globus Family, Kyocera Corporation, The Starr Foundation and Toyota Motor Corporation. MetLife Foundation is a Corporate Partner of Japan Society’s 2012-2013 Performing Arts season. Japan Society is also grateful to the following individuals, foundations, and government agencies for their generous support:  Dr. John K. Gillespie; The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Inc.; Dr. and Mrs. Carl F. Taeusch II; Mr. Norton Belknap; Mr. Terry Brykczynski and Ms. Andrea Miller; Mr. James C. Nolan; Ms. Hiroko Onoyama; Howard and Sarah Solomon; Mr. Alex York; Paula S. Lawrence; and an anonymous donor. New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature. Transportation assistance is provided by All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. Yamaha is the official piano provider of Japan Society.

 

Media Contacts:

Bridget Klapinski, Seven17 Public Relations, 347-246-6182, bridget@seven17pr.com

Shannon Jowett, Japan Society, 212-715-1205, sjowett@japansociety.org

Kuniko Shiobara, Japan Society, 212-715-1249, kshiobara@japansociety.org

 

 

 


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