All members of the Takarazuka are graduates of the Takarazuka Music School, which Kobayashi founded in 1913 as a way to attract young girls from good families to his theater group and train them to perform on his stage. At the time, women on stage in Japan were nearly unheard of; and so the school was billed as a place that would train girls to be "good wives and wise mothers" while also providing them with education in the arts. The school motto is "kiyoku tadashiku utsukushiku" — Be pure, be proper, be beautiful.

The school has become so popular that well-to-do families will train their daughters for years in preparation for the entrance exams, which are multi-stage affairs that include personal interviews, vocal testing, and testing of ballet skill. Over a thousand girls apply each year, and only 40 or 50 are actually accepted, so the competition is fierce. Only girls between the ages of 15 - 18 can apply. If accepted, they will have a strictly regimented schedule for the next two years, taking lessons each day in ballet, modern dance, traditional Japanese dance, tap, music history, theater history, singing, tea ceremony, English conversation, acting, and etiquette, among others. They also often take private lessons after school. Each student wears a school uniform, just like in most Japanese schools; the TMS uniform consists of a long gray skirt, matching gray jacket, white blouse and red tie.

The sempai / kouhai (senior-junior) relationship is built up right from the start. First-year students clean the school entirely by hand every day before classes begin, under the watchful eye of the second-years. No electric cleaning appliances are allowed, which means mops, brooms, brushes and sometimes toothbrushes are their main cleaning implements. It has been said that this practice helps encourage humility and proper attitude, not to mention stamina, in the students right from the start. The first-years must walk along the edges of the school's corridors, and bow and greet all older students they meet. None of the students are allowed to date, and there is a 10 PM curfew. Students live in dormitories (with the exception of those who can easily commute from their family homes).

At the end of the first year, it is decided whether each student will go on to become an otokoyaku (who plays male roles) or a musumeyaku (who plays female roles). This decision is based partially on the student's own preference, and partially on looks, height, vocal capability, and so on. The otokoyaku is a popular choice, as only otokoyaku can go on to become a top star in the troupe, and they generally have more fans and more attention; so the competition to become an otokoyaku is very high. On the other hand, many young girls dream of wearing the elaborate dresses that the musumeyaku alone can wear, and would prefer to be a musumeyaku. Several former otokoyaku stars, including Maya Miki and Haruno Sumire, once hoped to be musumeyaku. Once the decision has been made, the students spend their second year of classes learning how to move, speak, and sing like the selected gender. The otokoyaku students learn techniques to deepen their voices, and masculinize their gestures and speech patterns. The musumeyaku are trained to be ultra-feminine, in order to better emphasize the masculinity of the otokoyaku.

After their second year, the students graduate, and appear on the Takarazuka stage in a traditional hatsubutai line dance that takes over a month of practice, six hours a day, to learn. Their participation in this line dance is a rite of passage that constitutes their debut in Takarazuka, and the year that they debut is an important classification among the Takarasiennes. The line dance is Parisian can-can style, with the integral portion of the choreography being a series of perfectly synchronized high-kicks and traditional "Ha!" cheers from the dancers. Currently, troupe assignments for the new girls are done after the Grand Theater run is completed.

Created by caithion. Last Modification: Thursday 02 of July, 2009 08:01:52 GMT-0000 by lliriblanc.