Japan has a long history of traditional dances. The Japanese Fan dance is one of the oldest dances, dating back to 600BC. This dance originated as a way to entertain and cool off the aristocracy watching. Traditionally, young women perform this dance and it is either a solo performance or performed with a group. The dancers often use a handheld fan and wear brightly colored kimonos as well as bold makeup. The purpose of fan dancing is to tell a story through slow, deliberate movements and poses. This holiday was created to celebrate this art form and the tradition surrounding it.
History of Fan Dance Day
The earliest record of fan dancing took place in Japan during the reign of Emperor Jimmu. Fan Dancing was reserved only for those of high status and was hardly ever performed outside of the royal court. The dance is typically performed with live traditional Japanese music in the background. This dance was very popular for many centuries and became a central aspect of celebrations including marriage ceremonies and connotations.
There is a variety of materials that a traditional Japanese fan can be made from. These fans can be made from paper, feathers, or even cloth. Today, most fans are made from paper and are hand painted and folded. All fans are made with a paper pivot attachment that allows the fan to be easily opened with a single flick of the wrist. This also allows the fan to be easily folded and twirled during the dance as well. Fans were often used as a sign of social status. Japanese cypress was often used to decorate these fans and its use was regulated according to the social position of the fan’s owner. Those of higher ranking often had fans made of ivory, pearl, and sandalwood. Today, these fans are no longer an indicator of status. Instead, these fans represent friendship, loyalty, and good will.
Traditional fan dancing can be seen in Japan in modern times. This dance has become accessible to everyone, not just to those in power. It is still performed with hand painted paper fans and often to live music. This dancing is performed to western audiences however, it does not contain the traditional elements. For western audiences, the movements are faster with more impressive choreography and accompanied by recorded music instead of live. While this is still fan dancing, it is not the traditional form of fan dancing.
Fan dancing is very important in allowing Japan to be represented in Western culture. “The Mikado” is a non traditional form of fan dancing which became widely popular after being performed in London in 1885. The film “Topsy Turvy '' also helped popularize fan dancing due to its fictional behind the scenes look at how this original performance came to be. In 1997, Arthur Golden published a novel entitled “Memoirs of a Geisha”, which devoted many pages to discussing fan dancing.
To celebrate this holiday, one could go see a performance of fan dancing or celebrate from your home and watch the numerous fan dancing videos on youtube!