World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Ensohza Minyoshu

GENRE: Traditional – Iwate Prefecture
MUSIC DIRECTOR: Takashi Sugimoto

Formed in 2006, Ensohza Minyoshu is a Japanese folk performing ensemble based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company performs songs and dances that evoke the festival spirit of Japan and the character of its diverse rural communities. In addition to regular performances at community events and festivals throughout the Bay Area, Ensohza Minyoshu promotes opportunities for community building through ongoing training in folk dance and the traditional festival arts of Japan.


GENRE: Traditional – Iwate Prefecture
TITLE: Sansaodori (Sansa dance)
MUSIC DIRECTOR: Takashi Sugimoto
CHOREOGRAPHER: Traditional; arrangement by Nina Sazevich
DANCERS: Emiko Condeso (Ippachi), Sue Hirabayashi, Aya Okuma, Laura Rawson (taiko), Nina Sazevich (taiko), Arn Shimizu (fue), Irma Spars (taiko), Yukiyo Takaishi
MUSICIANS: Clare “Jiro” Hess (fue), Karl Young (fue)
VOCALS: Takashi Sugimoto

There are more dancers than sheaves of rice in the rice fields in fall, coming to the Sansa dance. When you dance Sansa, dance elegantly. Pick the most elegant dancer for your bride.

Sansaodori is a folk dance from the northern prefecture of Iwate, danced in community circles during the Obon Festival, when families honor their ancestors. This is the Iwate area’s signature ‘Bon’ dance, handed down for hundreds of years. Although styles of Sansaodori vary throughout the region, all the variations are thought to derive from the Sanbonyanagi—Three Willows—Sansaodori, a dance named for its village of origin, near Morioka City, and said to have been a celebration when the gods banished a troublesome demon. This presentation shows a few of some thirty-three traditional Sansaodori variations on a theme. During these dances, you will see the masked Ippachi perform a “teaching dance”, a loose solo interpretation of the variation that is coming next, before the other dancers join in. The Ippachi carries a stuffed weasel and wears a mask depicting Hyottoko, a fool whose mouth is twisted as if he’s blowing on fire; and the other dancers move in circular patterns with large, flowing sweeps of the arms.

The opening variation is Ayumi-daiko, a stepping and walking dance.

Yon-byoshi, one of the seven basic dance variations of Sansaodori.

Taue-odori kuzushi is a rice-planting dance with movements that evoke rice blowing in the wind.

Shishi-odori kuzushi is a pair variation, loosely based on traditional lion dancing.

Hikiha is a dance meaning “leading to the end” and is often next-to-last, another pair variation.

Rei-odori is a stylized bowing dance that always concludes the performance.

Sansaodori features dancing musicians playing okedo taiko drums and dissonant hayashi bamboo flutes.

The company studied Sansaodori with Michelle Fujii, a student of Japanese master dancer Shohei Kikuchi and Japan’s respected school of folk dance, Warabiza. Group member Clare “Jiro” Hess received permission to visit the Sanbonyanagi Sansaodori Hozonkai – a preservation group for this dance in its community of origin.

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