Yamamura-ryu was established by Tomogoro Yamamura about 200 years ago in Osaka. He was a choreographer for the famous kabuki actor, Utaemon Nakamura during the Bunka period of the Edo Era. Tomogoro choreographed many Japanese dances. Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe were known as the Kamigata area, so the dances created here are called Kamigata-mai. Yamamura-ryu became and still is one of the most famous schools of Kamigata-mai.
Our dances have been influenced by many old kabuki dances and Bunraku, the puppet theater, which is the most popular traditional art in Osaka. Sometimes, only the music has been borrowed, other times we dance “ningyo-buri” which means the dancers act and dance like puppetsKamigata-mai also include dances called “Jiuta-mai”. “Ji” means local, like “ji”-zake or “ji”-beer. So “jiuta” is a popular song sung by the Kamigata people. These songs were often accompanied by a shamisen and a koto. Jiuta-mai is a dance, which is also called “Zashiki-mai”. Zashiki is a Japanese-style room with tatami mats. Jiuta-mai was mainly performed in zashiki to entertain special guests.
Osaka has always been a merchant city. In the Edo Era, it was especially a rice market. Merchants came from all over Japan to sell rice in Osaka. They would host parties for people including samurai and big customers. Since samurai all studied Noh drama, the jiuta-mai dancers chose famous parts of the Noh plays and included them in jiuta-mai dances.Jiuta-mai were always changed to please special guests. For example, if an important customer was from Tokyo (Edo) then the choreographer would create dances for the dancers to include the most popular topics in Tokyo at that time. So there are many kind of jiuta-mai in our school.
During the Meiji and the early Showa Era, it was necessary for educated women in Osaka to learn Yamamura-dance. Especially daughters of Osaka merchants often learned it because it was an elegant dance-style influenced by Noh plays. Junichiro Tanizaki, a famous novelist in Japan, wrote a scene in his work, “The Makioka Sisters”. The heroine of the story, Taeko, performed “Yuki”, which is the most well known jiuta-mai in our school. Osaka is an innovated city, which is always changing with the times. However, I hope to preserve and hand down Osaka’s precious legacies to the next generations.