Mapping Contortion in Japan-- Part Three: Cultural Heritage

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Mapping Contortion in Japan– Part Three: Cultural Heritage & The Lion Dance

Following up with part one of my series, Mapping Contortion in Japan, I continue exploring the history of contortion and body flexibility in Japan. I decided to interview Tomomi Homma, advisor of the Town Development Minami-Ward of the Niigata prefecture, to gather in-depth information about the history of the Kakubeijishi, the Lion Dance. Kakubeijishi, also known as Tsukigata Lion, Echigo Jishi, Kambara Lion or Echigo Lion, is performed by children of the Niigata prefecture who showcase acrobatic tricks such as tumbling, handstands and body flexibility with a resemblance to contortion poses. It is important to emphasize that the art of Kakubeijishi is not affiliated with the circus industry. Throughout this conversation, it is referred to by Ms. Homma as a dance and the performers are acknowledged as artists or actors. The elements of body flexibility as part of their performance, however, are a crucial aspect when looking at the history and development of body flexibility and contortion in Japan.
Mariam Ala Rashi: Thank you for taking the time and for sharing your knowledge about the Kakubeijishi with us. I would like to begin with the history and development of the Lion Dance. When did the Kakubeijishi develop exactly? Kakubeijishi Performance in the Streets of Tokyo. Tomomi Homma: The Lion Dance developed about 180 years ago during the Edo Period (1603-1868). MA: What is the story behind the Kakubeijishi? There are different legends about the development of the Kakubeijishi. Can you tell me more about the history of the Lion Dance? TH: There...
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Mariam Ala Rashi

Mariam Ala-Rashi is a cultural anthropologist for dance and performance studies with an M.A. from the University of Roehampton in London, UK. As a professional dancer and dance instructor, she has worked internationally and won numerous awards in Europe and Asia. In 2011, she was accepted to the Beijing International Art School and studied contortion full-time for more than 4 years, and continued her contortion studies at the Mongolian National Circus for another 2 years. Simultaneously, she worked as author and researcher carrying out fieldwork in East Asia, focusing on dance and circus arts. Her recent publication is "The Art of Contortionism. An Introduction to and Analysis of Chinese Contortionism in a Historical, Political and Social Context." She currently lives in Japan to continue her anthropological research in dance and performance studies.