Ritual Dances is musical ceremony in five movements: I. Processional II. Circle Dance III. Sparrow Dance IV. Parasol Dance V. Sword Dance
The Processional accompanies the entrance of the dancers and features a moderate, march-like tempo with elaborate, decorated musical fanfares.
The Circle Dance or “round dance,” represents an extremely wide variety of folk, ethnic, and country dances that are done in a circle without partners to musical accompaniment. The circle dance is an ancient tradition among countless cultures for marking special occasions, strengthening community, and marking celebrations and is probably the oldest known dance formation. The circle dance of Ritual Dances marks the formal start of the ceremony with a chant-like melody floating over an elaborate groove that is prefaced and concluded by tin whistle fanfares.
The Sparrow Dance is a traditional Japanese dance based upon the fluttering movement of the tree sparrow. The original Sparrow Dance originates from dances improvised by stonemasons at the feast for the construction of Sendai Castle in honor of the samurai Date Masamune nearly 400 years ago. Because the masons’ dance was similar to the movement of skipping tree sparrows on the ground, and because Masamune’s emblem prominently featured the tree sparrow, it was named “Sparrow Dance,” and came to be danced at many festivals. The Sparrow Dance of Ritual Dances is marked by a light, very fast, and relentless fluttering rhythm meant to capture the speedy but delicate movements of the tree sparrow after which is it named.
The Parasol Dance is a simple Japanese traditional dance which uses an umbrella and is characterized by gentle shuffling movements. The parasol dance is typically lightly accompanied by simple melody. The Parasol Dance of Ritual Dances features a glassy melody that hovers over gently ringing and fading metallic chords. The parasol dance is interrupted by a darker and more powerful dance, creating a dialogue and drama between the dueling atmospheres.
Sword Dances of many kinds have recorded throughout world history, the most notable of which come from Greece, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, China, Korea, Scotland, and Japan. The sword dancers typically engage in a mock battle that is often supported by an aggressive, relentless musical pulse. Such is the case in Ritual Dances, where five pitched gongs and two Peking opera gongs are introduced with great force and driving rhythm to propel the ceremony to its conclusion.
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