KABUKI- JAPAN

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KABUKI DANCE, JAPAN

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Comprising elements of “theatre” as well, is dance form originating from Asia known as Kabuki.  This “dance-theatre” is said to have originated from Japan, and is renowned for performers making use of extravagant make-up. Due to its abstractness this form of theatrical dance style is often interpreted as “absurd” by many. Furthermore, it has also earned the sobriquet “the art of singing and dancing”. In terms of its history/origin and development, there were three critical periods, and they include, the Female Kabuki period from the years 1603-1629, the transition period from 1629-1673, and the “Golden Age” from 1673-1841.

a. History/origin of the Kabuki:

This unique theatrical dance style is said to have originated in the city of Kyoto alongside riverbeds during the 17th century. It was under the regime of “Tokugawa Shogunate”, a military government that this unique theatrical dance style was first developed. Furthermore, it was during this period i.e. 1603-1629 that this dance form was mainly performed by only females including roles that belong to males.  In addition, it was eventually during what is known as the “transition period” which began in 1629, and lasted till about 1673 that males were finally permitted to perform this theatrical dance. The male version of this theatrical dance style was named “Yaro Kabuki” which means “young man Kabuki”.

b. Costumes used in the Kabuki:

The type of costume worn by a male and female performer while performing the Kabuki depends on the period in which the play (that is being performed) was written. So the costumes worn would basically include kimonos, and hakama i.e. long court pants. In addition, make-up plays a huge role in this theatrical dance style, and includes the use of masks.

c. Music involved in the Kabuki:

The music used in this theatrical dance form comprises of three categories, and they are as follows:

  1. Geza: This form of music is usually played on the stage on which the Kabuki artist is performing. This music is then subdivided further into three categories. They are

a. Uta: This is essentially a song that is sung along with the music produced by a Japanese musical instrument known as “Shamisen”.

b. Aikata: basically involves the use of music without the use of singing.

c. Narimono: Is basically music produced by other Japanese musical instruments excluding Shamisen.

2. Shosa Ongaku: This is yet another form of music played on stage during a Kabuki performance. In addition, this form of music includes the Takemoto that supports the acting of the performer, and the Nagauta, Tokiwazu, and Kiyomoto which supports the dancing of the performer.

 3. Ki and Tsuke: Is a form of music produced by striking two square oak boards.

d. Training availability and the technique involved in the Kabuki:

In terms of technique, this “theatrical dance” requires the performer to strike a pose corresponding to the character being played. In addition, the performer is also expected to express a variety of human emotions such sadness, drunkenness, happiness etc through the use of body language and use of costumes. As for training centres/schools, there are a number of them available in Japan as well in a few countries (especially in Asia) around the world for those interested in acquiring knowledge in this unique “theatrical dance style”.

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