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Pictures of Japanese Geisha

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Formal Geisha Dance Performance, 2010
Pictures of Japanese Geisha

A geisha performs a traditional dance in Kyoto, Japan, in 2010.

Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

Geisha dance performances, such as the one shown here, usually include at least one number from kabuki theater. Interestingly, there is a gender role reversal; while all of the roles in kabuki, male and female, are played by men, all of the roles in geisha dance are played by women. Thus, a geisha may end up portraying a samurai or an army general in her dance.

Interestingly, the social roles of the kabuki theater and the geisha have evolved in similar ways. Both started out as aspects of the disreputable entertainment world during the Tokugawa era, in which kabuki actors and early geisha were considered to be outside of (and below) the four-tiered social hierarchy.

Geisha and kabuki both attracted a higher and higher class of clientele during the late Tokugawa period. Relationships between kabuki actors and geisha were a gossip mainstay at the time, similar to the role that pairings of sports stars and actors or pop singers fills today. Although their love lives are no longer the subject of public whispering, modern geishas and kabuki actors are considered treasured icons of traditional Japanese culture - a far cry from their former status as non-people.

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