Uzume- A Joyful Goddess

I came across this goddess who was only briefly mentioned in some article I was reading. She caught my attention, and I couldn’t help but notice her name started with U, a letter I knew I’d be looking for subjects for. So I jotted her name down and now the U has come up I’ve done a little research.

And what a wonderful surprise I found in meeting this goddess! 

Uzume, or Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, is a Shinto goddess of joy and happiness, mirth and revelry. She is a bubbly goddess with an effervescent personality, and the main myth she is associated with is fantastic.

Amaterasu, a sun goddess, was deeply offended and hurt when her brother, in a fit of jealousy, killed a horse (her sacred animal) and basically threw it at her feet. This action caused Amaterasu to go into hiding deep in a cave. This was problematic because being a sun goddess she took the light with her.

All the gods and goddesses pleaded with her to come out but she refused. But Uzume had an idea. She placed a mirror outside the cave and turned over a tub, which she then danced upon. This dance was very comical and bawdy as Uzume took off her clothes and revealed herself, causing the gods and goddesses to laugh and cause a huge ruckus. At this, Amaterasu’s curiosity got the best of her and she went to the entrance of the cave. From the entrance she caught sight of her brilliant reflection in the mirror and was lured out. Once out, the gods and goddesses grabbed her and sealed the cave behind her so she could not retreat back into it. But Amaterasu was cheered by all the laughter and revelry and was happy to stay outside.

I love this story for a number of reasons. For one, I am very drawn to how Uzume used humor to solve a difficult situation. She was also not afraid to let people laugh at her and she demonstrated that she did not have to take herself to seriously. Uzume knows about the power of laughter and humor and she’s not afraid to use it.

I’m also intrigued that she exposed herself in such a vulnerable way in order to achieve her goal of drawing Amaterasu out. She basically performed a hilarious strip tease knowing this dance would create laughter and hilarity.

And of course I love that she is a dancer! She is associated with both dance and drumming, as her feet drummed the tub creating a rhythm for her dance. Her hilarious dance demonstrates the strong healing power of dance, rhythm, and laughter. Her dance is also the basis of a few cultural Japanese dances, such as the ritual dance Kagura.  As a world dance theorist and professor this speaks to my heart, and gives me an idea for a whole new lesson/unit on these particular dances.

Always looking for choreographic inspiration, Uzume’s story of course struck a cord in me about how it is an obvious basis for a dance piece. But get this…as I was looking at information on the internet I saw a link to the world premiere of “Uzume” by Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, an internationally known, amazing ballet company that happens to be based in my town of Houston. Turns out next weekend DWDT is premiering an evening length work on Uzume. Wow. Guess I’ll have to see that one! Something in the stars aligned for me, I met a new goddess and had divine timing to get to see her story danced by a breathtaking ballet company.

Yes, I think the universe led me to discover this delightful goddess. I truly believe in the power of laughter and humor, and I feel that it is so important to be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself to seriously. And double yay that she taught these lessons through dance!

I love to play with humor in the dances I create, and doing comedic dances actually puts you in a really vulnerable place. There’s nothing worse than performing comedy and no one laughs. I have a dance trio in the infant stages of development that we’re just referring to as “awkward burlesque”.  The concept is three dancers (including myself) who are not the typical dancer bodies doing a very awkward strip tease in which we never actually take off any clothes. I think Uzume’s story really speaks to this dance because we are using bawdy humor and have to check our egos at the door in order to perform it. Even though the dance will be very comedic it will call on the performers to be able to laugh at themselves, not take it to seriously, and go to a vulnerable place where we allow the audience to laugh at us.

I am so excited to have found Uzume. Here is a goddess I can really embrace in my life and I can’t wait to see where she takes me.

For this post I referred to Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Mythica.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. etain1
    Oct 14, 2012 @ 18:29:58

    Very interesting…never heard of her.

    Reply

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