"Maiko Odori" Explaination
By Felisha Ortiz
Throughout all cultures, there is an object that holds great importance and prestige amongst their community. For the French, this item may be their vast arrangements of cheeses. For the Irish, it might be their elaborate step dancing. For Americans, it’s probably their fast food restaurants and various musical stylings. For Japan, however, this item just so happens to be a geisha. The digital art piece entitled “Miyako Odori,” created by Felisha Ortiz on December 14, 2016, depicts two Japanese geishas in their traditional attire, posing in a position of the dance of a geisha in Japanese culture. Geishas are an essential key to the traditions of a Japanese lifestyle, holding high prestige in the eyes of its practitioners.
The created work “Miyako Odori” shows great parallels to the aspects of geishas within Japanese culture through the overall design of said piece. For example, one can even be seen through the style of art used to create this piece. By choosing to depict the image of the traditional Japanese geishas in a realistic art style in comparison to a more cartoon-like approach, the piece captures the importance of this tradition’s practice in Japanese culture. This tradition has existed for 143 years now, and it is considered a great honor for the women who participate in Miyako Odori. During Miyako Odori, also known as the Dances of the Old Capital, 60 geishas perform a very intricate dance in the Kaburenjo Theatre every April for an exclusive group of men. For these men, it is considered a high symbol of status to be accompanied by a geisha, as the clients entertained by the geishas are traditionally corporate CEOs, actors, and politicians. The company of these women is quite expensive as well, costing 2,000 yen for second class and 4,500 yen for special class with a tea ceremony.
A second parallel is shown through the decision to create the work digitally instead of the traditional, pencil-on-paper method of creating art. This decision was made in order to accurately portray the very small, precise details of the kimonos and the intricate appearance of their hair, makeup, and even physique. In Japanese culture, geishas train between three and five years in dance, song, and art to master the very delicate craft of entertaining a male client. Every move of the dance of must be perfect. Each element of this process is perfected to a tee, and everything must be perfectly in place, as depicted in “Miyako Odori.”
The final parallel between “Miyako Odori” and the Japanese culture of geishas actually might not be as obvious as the others, as it’s not the main centerpiece of the work. It actually comes from the background. Behind the dancing geishas, there is an image of a circle of cherry blossom trees. Firstly, the design of the circle surrounded by complete white is a symbol of the actual flag of Japan. The real flag shows a completely white flag with a large, red circle in the center. Secondly, the image of cherry blossoms represent much in Japanese culture. In Japan, people anxiously await the blossoming of the cherry flowers, and celebrate with festivals that include food, drink, and music. This is similar to the way the Japanese anticipate the Miyako Odori every April. For hundreds of years, cherry blossom trees have represented the fragile beauty of life in Japanese culture. The trees bloom for such a short span of time each year that it is a constant reminder that all beautiful things do not last long. This is also parallel to the Miyako Odori, which is held only once a year, where everything is so perfectly choreographed and practiced that if one small thing is out of place, the entire show falls apart. The state of the show is so short and beautiful, yet so fragile at the same time, just like the blooming of the cherry blossom trees seen in the background of “Miyako Odori.”
Geishas are an essential key to the traditions of a Japanese lifestyle, holding high prestige in the eyes of its practitioners. The techniques used to create “Miyako Odori” showed direct parallels to the tradition, precision, and symbolism behind geishas in Japanese culture. Each element of this piece was put in place for the purpose of accurately capturing this entire component of culture in Japan. Through this artwork, you have to begin to look past the face value, noting the intricate details, design decisions made, and the deeper meaning behind it all. A simple glance won’t give you the full experience of this piece. One needs to critically analyze to find a lesson within an object, which the Japanese seem to have obviously been doing for centuries now, and will continue to for more years to come.