Dancing Queen

Dancing Queen

The Tall Tale

Here she is: the greatest Tayū who ever lived. Putting on a private show in this secluded wing of the Alhambra. Her first was for el rey y la reina. Now she dances on the spot for a motley crew of gamblers and aristocrats — found in every palace on this tour. Servants and black sheep who've heard her myth and come to see for themselves... the Dancing Queen you can't knock down.

She'd let the legend run wild for years now, because it kept being proved to be true. She didn't know if she was in control of it. She didn't want to. All she knew was she drew larger and larger crowds to every bash. Where they'd try and topple her over in back rooms and hideaways. Throwing everything from oranges to cod while she fish fingered their gaze upon her bare flesh beneath the silks. Knowing no matter what mayhem they hurled, she'd grab it like every other plate, bowl and teapot she's caught in Kyoto. With aplomb, midair, a ring cycle on spin cycle, never stopping, not for anyone... and certainly not for this silly lot who thought they'd knock her off her spot. With what? This fish? They wish. 

This is a bet she'd made many times over. From Buenos Aires to Ceylon they'd tried to take her on, and every time they left a little lighter as she collected coins from one after another. A dangerous bet she couldn't seem to refuse, because the Dancing Queen just won't lose...


The Tayū (太夫) were the highest class of traditional courtesan in traditional Japan. Distinguished by their intensive training from a young age in numerous traditional artforms... and the fact they didn't engage in sex work. They were celebrities, then. Not courtesans. And in the not too distant past, people knew about far flung celebrities in the same way we do now — the Industrial world's version of Amitabh Bachchan or Fan Bing Bing. Except Tayū were something else entirely. An all-in-one entertainment machine. Like the one seen here with that doggone fish reducing her to a sex object through tired symbolism, like so much Japanese art of the time.

Sources Of Inspiration

Tayū and courtesan culture in traditional Japan • Andalucia — cradle of queens who fought in battle • The smoky, lurid excess of French salons • Running away with the circus

Details, Details

I edited most of the men out of this piece and replaced them with women from all walks of life, because the source material was all hopped up on the male gaze... and there's no space in this daydream for that. 

100% digital paper cut-outs, spring flowers in bloom, a performance that will live in the mind forever and a day, in a setting fit for a queen • Art prints and greeting cards from 5x7" up to 24x32"


Try Another Diversion...