Unique Stage Performances Rich in Appeal
Kabuki evolved as a form of theatre in which men perform all roles. The actors playing female roles are known as onnagata, while those taking on male roles are called tachiyaku. Exaggerated and stylized methods are used to achieve bold expressions that transcend reality. While various Kabuki elements are different from other forms of modern theatre, Kabuki has pioneered many more—actors often stop to take dramatic and motionless poses called mie, kumadori makeup is applied to signify greater emotions, instant costume changes, the use of cables to lift actors high above the stage and audience, and rotating the circular part of the floor of the stage to change scenes. Kabuki theatres also incorporate walkways called hanamichi that run from the stage right through the audience, so audience can feel a greater rapport with the actors onstage.
Evolving with Edo Period Popular Culture
It is said that Kabuki began as a form of dance called kabuki-odori (meaning “wild and strange dancing”) that was popular around 400 years ago. The introduction of new elements such as music played on foreign instruments, complex stories and other qualities helped Kabuki steadily grow into a comprehensive form of theatre incorporating other entertainment styles and cultural elements. It was a favorite of the common people living in cities, and excellent playwrights and actors brought fresh creation and refinements to the art. By the middle of the 19th century, the majority of plays and production methods were largely in place. From the Meiji Period, Kabuki became a classical dramatic art. At the same time, new plays were added and it positively incorporate modern contents to the performances. Throughout all of this, Kabuki continues to be extremely popular.