The spectacular art of the Kabuki theatre has been at the forefront of Japanese popular culture for four hundred years. Still very much alive and well, it now encompasses a great variety of plays and dances.
Acting styles vary, and just as there are older, highly stylized works performed with on-stage musical accompaniment, so there are more recent dramas presented in a realistic way with either recorded music, or no music at all.
All the major Kabuki actors are members of distinguished acting families that can trace their lineage back, in some cases, for hundreds of years. All top-ranking actors will have inherited both the performance traditions and the illustrious names of their forefathers, and the idea of maintaining the family art from generation to generation is very important.
In its essence, though, Ka-bu-ki, now written with the three Japanese characters that mean "song," "dance" and "acting skill," is an art combining very different disciplines that would in most other cases be performed separately.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Kabuki Theatre (especially for Westerners) is the continuing traditional use of onnagata; male actors in feminine roles. The skill and challenge of the male onnagata is to express the very essence of femininity without simply imitating female characters or Geisha.
to More Masterpieces of Kabuki Reviews
Link to All Masterpieces of Kabuki Program Synopses
Other Kabuki Items
Kabuki: Baroque Fusion of the Arts
Tamasaburo Bando Kabuki Dance Series
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