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Bugaku is one of the oldest forms of court entertainment (749-1183). Performance of Bugaku dances insures the continuity of the universe. Bugaku dance is associated with traditional court music known as Gagaku. Gagaku is the oldest existing orchestral music in the world.

Bugaku symbolizes the oldest continuing ritual of court entertainment. These performances were held in secret and seen only by members of the aristocracy, government officials and official guest.

Japanese emperors were once known as political and religious leaders. Through the centuries of political change, only the religious role of the emperor has remained.

In the Imperial Palace theatre, gagaku and bugaku are performed on a square platform (18 feet by 18 feet) covered in green brocade and resting on a slightly larger square of black-lacquered wood. A red railing runs around the square.

Dances depict battles, encounters with the divine or with mystical beast (phoenix or dragons). The dancers perform simple geometric floor patterns accented by long pauses for the performers to strike poses. Repetition and deliberately slow tempos are important to bugaku. Dancers wear ornate regalia. Mask are often worn because distorted facial expression would violate court etiquette Most pieces are choreographed for two to eight dancers.

The dances are performed only by men. The dances are passed from generation to generation of palace servants, Training begins at age five, The ritual training is carried out every day.

Since the end of World War II performances have been open to the public in a theater on the palace grounds. There are about 30 performances a year in a theater for 700. A lottery is held to determine the lucky ticket winners.