Elizabeth Smith: Nihon Buyou and Ballet


This semester, I have continued with both of my CIP activities: Ballet and Nihon Buyou. Unlike last semester, when I was primarily focused on acclimating into a new environment, I started this semester feeling comfortable with both of my CIPs. This allowed me to delve deeper into both communitiesscreen-shot-2017-03-31-at-19-57-45

In Nihon Buyou, I am now able to pick up on details that largely escaped me at the beginning. This is in part because my language skills have improved dramatically. Last semester was essentially survival mode: I was only focused on understanding the gist of what my teacher had to say, and had little room to pick up on details or nuance. This semester, I know her better and am more familiar with the repertory that I am studying. This has allowed me to learn more about the history of Nihon Buyou, its links to the Kabuki tradition, and the different schools. For example, both last semester and this semester, my teacher has given me tickets to see Nihon Buyou performed in Pontocho. (This semester, I got to see her dance with her sister!) Compared to last semester I was much more aware of the context what I was seeing, and was able to ask better questions afterwards.

In terms of ballet, I feel like I have become a much more involved member of the community. Last semester, due to a minor injury and the process of adjusting to life in a foreign country, I typically went home right after classes. This semester, because I was more comfortable with life in Kyoto and my injury has healed, I have started staying to wear pointe shoes for an extra half hour after one of my two classes every week. This has given me a better opportunity to get to know the other girls much better. Whereas girls that dance together for several days in a week in America tend to become very close, I at first thought that the atmosphere at K.Classic ballet was much less social. However, spending more time around the girls, I’ve realized that while the dressing room is too small to talk much before and after class, they do have a strong community. They have been incredibly inclusive towards me as well! For example, when one of the girls brought Valentines’ chocolate for everyone, she included me as well! Additionally, girls who I was once intimidated to speak to have approached me to start conversations about my pointe shoes or my training in the US. Little gestures like these have made me increasingly like I have become part of a community.