Sagi Musume

Sagi Musume / 鷺娘 —The Heron Maiden—

This is one of the most popular dances in kabuki and shows a beautiful woman who is actually the spirit of the heron. She goes through a dizzying series of costume changes, first appearing in a white bride's costume in the snow, suggesting a heron, but then changing instantly to a series of brightly colored kimonos for a fashionable young commoner girl. Finally her costume suggests wings and that she is actually the spirit of the heron.

This dance features two of the most spectacular fast-change costume techniques and both are performed onstage right in front of the audience. With the hiki-nuki, the costume comes in layers and the upper layer is held together by cords. A stage assistant pulls out the cords and then pulls off the upper layer in an instant. This creates a change in appearance without a change in character. With the bukkaeri, cords are pulled out at the shoulders and then the top half of the kimono drapes over the lower half looking a little bit like a skirt. There is a very different costume underneath and this usually indicates that a character is revealing his or her true nature.