Is there a difference between ダンス and 踊り? They are both defined as dance in the dictionary.


2 Answers 2


ダンス(dansu) is a Loanword from English. A word borrowed from English into Japanese (Anglicism, English Garaigo). Derived from the English word "Dance". ダンス is more used to refer foreign dance styles as Waltz, Hip-Hop, Ballet.

踊り(odori) is the traditional native japanese word with same meaning. An inflexion of the word "踊る(odoru)" meaning "to dance".

踊り is more general, referring also to the traditional Japanese dance. As 盆踊り(Bon-Odori) performed on お盆祭り(O-Bon Festival)(O-Bon Matsuri).

舞踊(buyou) and 舞踏(butou) are loanwords from Chinese, with same meaning. As in 日本舞踊(nihon butou) or the George R. R. Martin book "竜との舞踏"(Dance with dragons)(ryuutono butou) title.

舞い(mai) is also used, coming from the verb "舞う(mau)" also meaning "to dance".

"踊り" is also spelled "躍り" or "踴り".

Synonyms exists in any language. It's why 'Thesaurus' exists for the English language too.

  • 1
    So all those 6 words meaning dance are nothing more than synonyms (except ダンス)? When I use each one? The one I like more?
    – Yuuza
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 8:17
  • @Yuuza 舞い has a nuance to it; and other than that, yes, you use the one you like the best. Commented Feb 2 at 20:57

Re.日本舞踊/nihon buyou: Perhaps because this term dates only to the late Meiji and Taisho eras, it seems to be used in confusing ways. According to https://nihonbuyou.or.jp and Sensational Knowledge: Embodying Culture Through Japanese Dance by Tomie Hahn (Wesleyan University Press, 2007), this art form is dance drama that, beginning in the Taisho period, evolved from both kabuki and popular dance techniques to become an independent form. However, others say that it can refer to any form of classical Japanese dance; still others, that it refers to kabuki dance. Currently, most people seem to subscribe to the following:
While nihon buyou translates literally as “Japanese dance,” the term indicates a specific genre performed in theaters although, according to Hahn, Japanese performing arts as different as noh, bunraku, and popular arts have so influenced each other over time that defining 日本舞踊 is as difficult for scholars as the cross-pollination is appealing to viewers.
The term 舞踊 was coined by the prominent literary figure Tsubouchi Shōyō (1859-1935) in the late Meiji period as a general term for "dance," which previously had been referred to using the names of particular genres, e.g. mai (舞) and odori (踊). Combining those kanji he created 舞踊 (the on reading of 舞 is bu, that of 踊 is ). Tsubouchi is said to have been the first person to use「日本舞踊」, in 1907. At about the same time he was proposing a major change in Japanese theater: dance drama (舞踊劇 buyo geki) that would incorporate both the traditional performing arts and new Western influences, in order to reflect the society of that moment and, perhaps, to calm vehement disagreements about whether and how much Japan should adopt Western ways.
Tsubouchi’s idea inspired the Taisho-period Shin-buyo Movement, which created dance works different from the classic repertoire and included many female performers. During the Showa period, it became possible for children from ordinary homes, not just patrilineal 家, to become professional 日本舞踊 performers. In 1955 the 日本舞踊協会 was established to foster the art form.
In contrast to all-male kabuki companies, 日本舞踊 uses both male and female dancers; is practiced by professionals and amateurs; and incorporates elements of other dance forms (e.g. ballet, folk and geisha dances), modern theater, and Western music as it continues to respond to changing times. New choreography may be based on literature that is very old or contemporary, retelling themes in versions that range from slapstick comedy to gripping drama, all while retaining a recognizably Japanese aesthetic of distillation, subtlety, and refinement.
The basic movement elements are odori (踊り), mai (舞い), shigusa (仕草), and furi (振り). 踊り emphasizes energetic movements emanating from/responding to rhythm; 舞い dancing is reserved and refined to express internal emotions; 仕草 are the movements dictated by kimono; ふり is pantomime. Like other Japanese theater arts, intoned verse lyrics narrate the dance, accompanied by music which is usually played on traditional instruments. Numerous “schools” (流派) operating by the hierarchical iemoto (家元) system practice many subgenres of 日本舞踊.

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