Japanese dance troupe performs Iwami Kagura

The character of Susanou No Mikoto slays a giant serpent to defend princess Kushinada in the dance performance hosted in Wrather Museum Tuesday night. || Jordie Oetken/Contributing photographer

The character of Susanou No Mikoto slays a giant serpent to defend princess Kushinada in the dance performance hosted in Wrather Museum Tuesday night. || Jordie Oetken/Contributing photographer

With standing room only and a faculty member trying to manage the crowd inside Wrather Museum, the Japanese dance troupe Iwami Kagura performed Tuesday night.

The Kagura dance originated as a religious service performed by Shinto priests as a sign of gratitude to the Shinto gods for giving them a plentiful harvest. The dances are considered religious.

The Kagura dances portray the heroism of the Iwami people and tell a story.

Ted Brown, dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, said this style of dance is known for its up-tempo drums and colorful costumes.

“It’s very unique and nothing like this has been in Murray before,” Brown said.

The performance started out with four men playing musical instruments that consisted of a large Japanese drum, a very small drum, small cymbals and a Japanese flute.

Patricia Pringle, Kentucky consultant for the Japanese Intercultural Consulting organization, said the troupe is touring the United States as a way to show thanks for the help Americans contributed during the earthquake relief.

Prior to the performance Pringle encouraged audience applause throughout the dances.

“The more applause they get, the happier they are,” Pringle said. “This is about joy, not sadness.”

Brown said all of the men have trade jobs back in Japan and the dancing was a hobby in which they participate.

“The youngest member is around 21 years old and the oldest is 71,” Brown said. “They are a part of a traveling dance troupe and Murray State is their second stop.”

None of dancers spoke fluent English, so with the help of a translator, they spoke with members from the community and the University.

Tadamitsu Mihara was the eldest member of the troupe at 71 years old, still dancing with the troupe as it travels.

He said he began performing the ritual dances when he was 20. He is also the president of the dance troupe and said among the many traditional Japanese dances, the Orochi dance was his personal favorite.

The dancers were interactive with the crowd throughout their performance and candy from Japan was passed out to every audience member.

“The aggressive dance moves are fun,” Mihara said. “I like the up-tempo beats.”

He said they received a great reaction from the audience when they were in Atlanta and expected a great crowd in Murray.

The dance troupe also conducted a hands-on workshop for students in the Calloway County High School gymnasium before coming to perform at Murray State.

The event was co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation, the Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

Story by Meghann Anderson, Assistant News Editor.