Morikami Explores the Tranquil Beauty of Japanese Dance

The brilliant sheen of lush kimono fabric, the gentle shuffle of feet across the stage, the graceful and deliberate movements of a lone dancer, set to haunting Japanese melodies—these are snapshots of Wakayagi-Ryu, a type of traditional Japanese dance.

A rarity in South Florida, performances of traditional Japanese dance are a visual and auditory feast not many outside of Japan have the opportunity to see. However, Morikami has invited a group of eminently talented native Japanese performers to showcase their craft in a must-see collaborative event: Beauty in Movement: The Elegance of Japanese Dance.

The evening will feature Japanese classical dance master Satomi Hirano, celebrated koto player and teacher Yoshiko Carlton, seasoned performers Sayaka Kikuchi, Keiko Ishikura and Mayuko Ishikura, who make up the three-piece tsugaru shamisen ensemble Matsuriza Tsugaru Shamisen, and accomplished jiuta shamisen player Mayumi Hopkins.

If you’re a newcomer to traditional Japanese music, we invite you to learn some basic information about the instruments you will hear during this spellbinding performance—koto and shamisen:
Japanese classical dance master, Satomi Hirano.


Koto is a traditional Japanese stringed instrument first introduced to Japan from China during the 6th or 7th century. The koto is about six feet long and ten inches wide, traditionally made from the wood of the paulownia tree. The koto’s 13 strings are plucked by the musician with the right hand using a set of picks called tsume on the thumb, index, and middle finger, and pulled or pressed with the left hand to create a variety of unique sounds.

Koto was first played at the imperial courts in Japan exclusively by nobles or monks, but by the 17th century, its use became widespread and koto music was enjoyed especially when accompanied by voice and other traditional instruments, such as the shamisen.

Yoshiko Carlton performing on the koto.


The shamisen is a three-stringed traditional Japanese instrument similar to a banjo. It was derived from a Chinese instrument called a sanxian. Shamisen are composed of a long, thin neck and a round, hollow body, usually covered in different types of animal skin, such as cat skin—which is said to produce the best sound quality.

Beauty in Movement features two different types of shamisen: jiuta and tsugaru. Jiuta shamisen have a thinner, delicate neck and are associated with kabuki theater. Jiuta-style music is one of the older styles of shamisen music. Tsugaru shamisen have a thicker neck and strings, to accommodate the vigorous plucking heard in tsugaru-style music. Some contemporary tsugaru-shamisen musicians have even combined tsugaru with jazz and rock.

Matsuriza Tsugaru Shamisen, pictured holding their tsugaru-style shamisen.

Join us on March 11, 2016

Price: $15 for non-members, $10 for members
Time: 7:00 (museum doors open at 6:00pm)
Advance ticket purchase required
Tickets will be held at the door under your name

This program is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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