Dance title Ryűko  In Japanese
Authors Ôno Keizô (Creation)
Nishi Tei (music)
Bandô Mitsunojô (choreography)

The dance "Ryűko" was premiered in September 1953 at the Ôsaka Kabukiza, starring Bandô Minosuke VI and Jitsukawa Enjirô II in the roles of the Dragon and the Tiger.

Key words Shosagoto

"Ryűko" is about the spectacular fight between the Dragon, the king of Sky, and the Tiger, the king of Earth. They meet together by moonlight. The Dragon roars in the sky and giant clouds break out. The Tiger roars on the ground and the winds start to blow. The two powerful creatures are ready for the showdown. The elements are part of the battle: lightnings and thunder against winds and earthquakes. The whole world is shaking. The Dragon is as strong as the Tiger and none of them can win over the other. The rain stops to fall and the winds stop to blow. The Dragon retires to his celestial realm while the Tiger retires to his cave. Then, the full moon is shining over the scene again, bringing this 20-minute long dance to an end.


"Ryűko" is a modern piece, written after WWII about the power of the sky, represented by the dragon, and the power of the land, represented by the tiger, no doubt a theme with special significance for the people at that particular time in history.

Courtesy of Jean Wilson (1999)

Trouble Report

Kabukiza, November 1999

Just two days later, on the opening day of the kaomise ("face-showing") evening program at the Kabukiza, I saw every kôken's nightmare come true on stage. In the final dance on the program, Somegorô and Yasosuke were dressed as a tiger and a dragon respectively in thick, elaborate costumes designed like those used in the theater. While the two actors tossed their long mane wigs forward and then bent over to the floor to cover their faces (In fact without our knowing it they were removing their kumadori makeup and reapplying shironuri white makeup right in front of us), the time came for the top layer of kimono to be taken off, but the threads in Somegorô's costume got stuck. No amount of yanking would pull them free. The young kôken looked like he wanted to die. He bowed his head to the ground and an older assistant finally managed to pull the material off, but it left part of Somegorô's costume hanging out at the front. During the dance, another glitch happened when Yasosuke was supposed to balance on Somegorô's knee but his foot slid off the slippery costume material and they lost their balance; two more tries still ended in failure, so they gave up and went on! This kind of mistake is common in first-day performances, because at the Kabukiza, actors have only five days to rehearse in total, and only one full dress rehearsal, so many of the mistakes have yet to be ironed out.

Courtesy of Jean Wilson (1999)


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