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Shirabyōshi (白拍子)

A type of chanting and dance popular from the end of the Heian era through the Kamakura era, or, the women who performed it (at times, children and men also performed shirabyōshi). Shirabyōshi had a profound effect on ennen, kusemai, and sōga. Shirabyōshi typically included one of the popular songs of the times, such as imayō or rōei, together with dance, and the musical accompaniment of either drums or occasionally flutes. The performers wore a white suikan, a type of ceremonial, conical headdress, or tate-eboshi, and as they also held a shirosayamaki, a small sword in a white scabbard, to portray a man, the performance came to be known as “male dance.” When the tradition of wearing the headdress and sword disappeared, the name changed to shirabyōshi. Popular shirabyōshi performers who were loved the aristocracy and whose names lived on in generation to come include Shizuka Gozen, the concubine of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, Giō and Hotoke Gozen under Taira no Kiyomori, and Kamegiku under Emperor Go-Toba.

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