Fwa Udui: Folk Dances Created to Protect the Culture

hanafu.jpg munjuru.jpg nuchibana.jpg  Fwa udui, which is also referred to as popular dance or folk dance, were mostly created during the Meiji period.  More and more research has brought me to information that shows these often lively and less rigid dances depicting real life, was created to preserve the culture, traditions, and language, at a time when there was much suppression of things Okinawan.                         

Prior to WWII, Okinawa was faced with little money , high taxes, and the Japanese Government wanting to irradicate the local language.  Cultural practices were also being suppressed.  To counter the attempt, Okinawan performing arts teachers went to work creating dances and music which depicted everyday life and situations.   They also used various dialects of “shimakutuba” or local language, depending on wht area the dances came from.  The teachers of this time knew that if they did not do this, many songs and traditions would die.  Through the fwa udui, stories are told of life experiences and emotions, from the aristocrats, down to the farmers and fishermen.  These dances have survived the ravages of WWII and the many changes which have come to Okinawa.  They are still often performed on stage and bring us a glimpse of the past.

Dances being created within the past 20-30 years cannot even closely compare to the fwa udui of the Meiji era.  New dances have taken a path away from Okinawan life and history, and sometimes cannot even be recognized a Okinawan.   It seems that the fwa udui had a purpose, and it is through this that they have survived and will continue to survive for future generations.  If you have the chance to take in fwa udui by observing or learning/performing, think about the story.  Think about why it was created, and imagine yourself in a time when the language flourished, and the people actually lived what is being brought out on stage.  Surely it will make it so much enjoyable.