Dance Journey with Kabuki Actor Ichinosuke Umekawa

Japan travel articles are populating the internet like busy bunnies. However, American newspapers’ coverage of Japan seems to stick to:

1. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics
2. Robots
3. The rapid rise of elders and the decline of Japanese babies.

But those concerned about Japan have yet to meet Kabuki actor and dance master, Ichinosuke Umekawa. After seeing him perform at the Japan Foundation in Los Angeles; Japan’s future looks bright.

Perhaps Umekawa-san was destined to travel from his arrival on the planet. Born in Oita prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu; he ventured very north to Niigata on the main island of Honshu to attend university. Umekawa-san did a grand jeté into the prestigious Tokyo Ballet in 2005.

Performances in Sleeping Beauty and Giselle as well as controversial Maurice Béjart works like Bolero took him to Europe. Mid arabesque, Umekawa-san awakened to a heart wrenching truth. Ballet is a Western born art. Promulgating Japanese culture and traditions as a Japanese person was his duty.

Upon his return to Japan in 2007, he enrolled in Kabuki classes at the National Theatre. The attrition rate of students is enormous. Umekawa-san endured the disciplines. In year 2, he met National Living Treasure, Tamasaburo Bando. The revered dance master became his mentor.

To this day, Umekawa-san stays in touch. While in LA, he was apparently sending his revered sensei via Line (Japanese-style text.)  Rules are looser for a modern day Kabuki actor. Umekawa-san is actually under the tutelage and school of Nakamura Shido. (The Tamasaburo Bando lineage is another division of Kabuki training.)

The new Kabuki generation has also allowed Umekawa-san to create traditional Japanese dance choreography to Shostakovich. A creation, which wowed the LA audience.  Veering again from the past, Umekawa-san performed the classic piece Renjishi. For hundreds of years, the Kabuki play has depicted a father lion throwing his cub over a cliff. Why? So, the son could learn fortitude. Spoiler Alert: The baby lion survives.

Surviving also is a gorgeous Japanese dance tradition thanks to Umekawa-san (and others.) Interesting to note though that his Instagram account in English mentions he’s a model and fashion columnist. Umekawa-san’s Japanese profile sticks to traditional dance master, ballet dancer and Kabuki actor. No matter the motivation behind the words, his actions are building a bridge between Japan’s past and present.

舞踊家・梅川壱ノ介 珍しいダンス人生の旅


梅川氏は初めから旅をする運命かもしれません。梅川氏は大分県出身、新潟大学を卒業し、2005年、一流の東京バレエ団に入団し、 古典作品「眠れる森の美女」や「ジゼル」などに多数出演しました。フランスの振り付け師モリス・ベジャートの問題作「ボレロ」にも出演しています。(因みにベジャートさんのモダンバレエはアジアのダンスの影響もあるそうです。)


しかし、梅川さんは歌舞伎の演奏のみの俳優ではありません。ロサンゼルス でショスタコーヴィチの音楽で自分の振り付けした日本舞踊を演技しました。更に「連獅子」にて、わが子を谷底に落とし、這い上がってきた強い子だけを育てるという親子伝説の演技もしました。昔の歌舞伎と同じではありませんが日本文化、伝統含まれているダンスです。

インスタグラム(@UmekawaIchinosuke)の自己紹介では、舞踊家Japanese Dance Master 、バレエダンサー、歌舞伎俳優を経て、日本舞踊を専門とする舞踊家へ転身したと書かれています。また、日本語サイトの肩書ではフアッション関係は書いていませんが、英語サイトには、 Model (モデル) Fashion Columnist (フアッション・コラムニスト)と書いてあります。

やはり梅川壱ノ介さんは今日の世界で日本の心を表せています。又は、 日本の過去と現在をダンスで癒合して架け橋を作っています。


Wishing you the music that makes your heart dance.

The Ninja Baker

© ™ Watkinson 2012

The Ninja Baker has guest blogged and contributed recipes to numerous food sites. These additional recipes can be found here.



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