This film is part of Free

Japanese Dancers

Twirling and swinging cloth strips, three dancers present a lively performance for the earliest Western filmmakers.

1894 Silent Not rated


This is the oldest surviving moving image featuring Japanese people from the BFI National Archive’s collection. It was produced for Edison’s Kinetoscope not in Japan but in WKL Dickson’s studio in New Jersey. It is a film of the Mikado dance by the Sarashe sisters who were performing at the 5th Avenue Theater. The three Japanese dancers perform with their kimono sleeves tucked up for vibrant movement, they shake paper fans and strips of sarashi (gauze), which represent the dyed cloth being rinsed in the river. The fluttering movement of the cloth parallels the sensual flapping of the skirt in the Western serpentine dance, a popular subject in early films. (Kosuke Fujiki & Bryony Dixon)