Of the arts that Geisha perform dance is probably the best known due to the proliferation of public performances. Geisha are classed by the arts that they master in the course of their training. Geisha dedicated to dance are called tachikata (dance) geisha.
Dances are performed to traditional music performed by a fellow geisha or jikata (musician), telling stories of love, sorrow and nature. The geisha will use her kimono, body and props such as fans to intimate the flowing of a brook or the rustling of leaves in a tree.
Dances vary amongst the hanamachi. In Gion Kobu they learn a style of dance derived from Noh called Shimai. Other Kyoto hanamachi have their own styles which are said to be influenced heavily by Kabuki. Fujima in Gion Hagashi, Onoue in Ponto-cho, Wakayagi in Miyagawa-cho and Hanayagi in Kamishichiken.
Another popular dance style for geisha and maiko is Nihon Buyo a type of classical Japanese dance – graceful and flowing. The master of Nihon Buyo aims to perfect body forms collated from a range of historical dance styles include bugaku – a ceremonial dance form of the Imperial Court and nohgaku – originating from Noh theatre and its origins.
Articles about Japanese music often use dozens of Japanese terms. When I arrive at the fourth term, I usually forgot the first three. For the ambitious ones among you, here are a few special terms.
Shamisen is an old Japanese musical instrument. It looks like a banjo with a long neck. You might have heard of shamisen music in connection with geishas, the kabuki theater or the Japanese bunraku puppet theater.
The shamisen is a lute instrument with three strings. It has a very long neck and is about 30 inches (one meter) long.
Its body is made out of wood and covered with cat or dog skin ( Pet lovers excuse! I hate the idea myself. ). In the historical beginnings, snake skin was used ( not much better ). The body is stuck on a pole, the neck. Body and neck can be taken apart. Thus the shamisen is easier to transport.
Over the course of time, different forms of the musical instrument developed. The main types are the futozao, the hosozao and the tsugaru. The difference is in the thickness of the body and thus the typical sound of the instrument. As with all Japanese art forms like the tea ceremeny or martial arts, dozens of different styles emerged - taught in numerous schools.
The names for the parts of a koto were decided long ago by likening the instrument to a dragon stretched out along the ground. Some of the parts' names are written with Chinese characters meaning "dragon's tongue," "dragon's brow," and "dragon's horn."
This section is the main body of the koto. The musician plucks the strings with the right hand, being sure to touch them on the right of the ji, the supports under the strings.
After the koto is strung, and the strings are run through holes in the instrument's body and tied off, the leftover string is placed here. It's coiled into two bunches--one of six strings and one of seven--and kept in case a string breaks later.
These supports are slid up and down the instrument to adjust the sound of each string. With their notched tops to hold the strings, they also help transmit the sound from the strings to the body of the koto, making it fuller and richer.
The koto is not played directly with the fingers. Instead, the musician puts three tsume on the index finger, middle finger, and thumb of the right hand and plucks the strings with them.
Although the placement of holes and tuning of the instrument is a very delicate process, the instrument itself is of a basically simple construction. It is this very fact, however, which allows for very complex techniques in playing the instrument such as the use of the breath with changes in the blowing angle for great or minute changes in sound quality, or partial-holding of fingerholes to make delicate pitch changes.
The instrument takes its name from its standard length of one foot (shaku) and eight (hachi) parts of a foot (called sun), approximately 54cm. There are other lengths of the instrument as well, all with the general name of shakuhachi
In Japan the flute has had a long association with Zen Buddhism. The idea is to use the flute in meditation to achieve total spontaneity, a release from normal conscious thought. When played in a natural setting it sounds very much like it belongs there. This is not true with most instruments. Imagine playing, say, a trumpet by a quietly babbling brook!