May 7, 2006

Kabuki-za, not Kabukicho

Friday was Children's Day in Japan. It is a national holiday, but I had to work. I was told that originally, there was a Girl's Day Holiday and a Boy's Day Holiday, but then that got combined into one Children's Day, which ended up taking the orginal Boy's Day Holiday date. Children's Day is where you'll see people flying the fish kite/flags out of their houses. Unfortunately, I didn't see any on Friday. Otherwise, I'd take a picture of one flying. I did, however, see the Japan flag flown from a house on Constitution Day, this past Wednesday.

Saturday, I didn't have to work, whew! So, I went to Aksaksa. It was packed with tourists, foreign and Japanese. But it's a great place to get real Japanese stuff, like stuff from the Edo era. I bought a few hair ornaments and then realized I didn't have my camera with me. I went back to the hotel, then headed for Ginza. I didn't shop this time, instead, I went to a Kabuki show at Kabuki-za.



A kabuki show is long, probably about 4 hours. There are a few acts. The coolest thing is you can buy tickets for one act. Only the die-hard kabuki fans go for the whole thing. I only went to the dance segment, which was 50 minutes for 2 dances. Unfortunately, only standing tickets were left. So, I had to stand for the 50 minutes. Here's the synopsys from the website:

After the death of his lover, the handsome young Yasuna wanders through the open fields madly searching for his love. The tragedy is a contrast to the beautiful setting, a field of brilliant yellow flowers and the lush, sensuous Kiyomoto narrative music that accompanies it. Starring young onnagata star Kikunosuke.
-FUJI MUSUME (The Wisteria Maiden)-
The spirit of wisteria blossoms dances of love in the form of a beautiful young maiden. One of kabuki's most famous and colorful dances, it will feature the dancing skills of the popular young star Ebizo.

The first dancer was ok. It was a bit too much drama and not enough dancing for me. The dancer was wearing these super long pants. Imagine having pants where the legs were twice as long as they should be. He was basically walking on his pants. Visually, to me, it looked like he was kneeling, but we all know he's not.

The second dancer was spectacular. She wore what looked like 3 kimonos. The top layer was a black one, which she entered with. She carried a big twig of wisteria blossoms. Imagine the typical Japanese doll in kimono, that was her. She did her thing, then went behind the large tree on the stage, which lead to the dressing room, where she took off her black kimono and was now wearing a purple one. In addition to using the sleeves of her kimono in her dancing, she also did some stomping and walked around really fast. Then she goes back behind the tree and takes off just the top part of the purple kimono to where it was hanging behind her and you see her red kimono underneath. She did her dance with the big wisteria twig and then humbly left the stage. The crowd went wild.

The most amusing thing about the show was the audience. Every now and then, a few guys from the audience would yell out something. I wasn't sure what they were saying. After asking a couple of Japanese friends of mine, I realized that it's mostly planned. The guys that yell out are typically major patrons to the kabuki-theatre and it's their opportunity to participate.

Before the show started, I took a flashless picture of the theatre inside.

This was my first time to see kabuki. There are a few similarities between a bellydance show in Cairo and kabuki dance. Allow me to list a few:
1. There are musicians (a band/orchestra) on the stage.
2. There is a singer on stage. In kabuki's case, there are multiple singers on stage.
3. The dancer has a long entrance music.
4. The dancer makes costume changes.
5. The band continue to play while the dancer is changing.
6. People from the audience yell out a word or two.
7. There is only one dancer on stage.

The major difference is that kabuki dance tells a story, and the dancer tells the story with her movements. Because of that, the kabuki stage has a special backdrop for the dancer. Lastly, the kabuki stage is typically 3 times larger than the bellydance stages in Cairo.

The kabuki dance has subtleties that I think westerners do not have the patience for. There was a German lady next to me. She looked like she was in pain and bored at the same time. I heard her sigh and even swear under her breathe. Then she'd go lean back on the wall, to where you can't see the stage. It's slow, so be prepared.

One last thing about the kabuki theatre... Too many people bring in snacks. I wouldn't mind so much, but the crinkly plastic wrappers were making too much noise.

Sunday, I taught a workshop at my friend Mishaal's studio. Her students are so quick to pick things up. I taught a short 2 minute duet choreography, then made them change it up to make it their own. They loved it and really liked a few "new" moves. Afterwards, we all got ready at the studio and headed over to Go-Kai in Harajuku. It's a tiny but funky little bar. It'll only fit about 30 max, but there were about 15 of us there. Then some customers came. The bartender/owner guy will basically make you whatever. There's no menu. You can ask for something specific, or he will just make you something. He made some super crazy drinks. Very funky, like the bar. As you can see in the photo below, those are eggs hanging from ropes from the ceiling. Yes, those are, indeed, lights. Egg lights!


Raqs Chandra, Mishaal's ATS students, performed their improvisation in groups of 2 or 3. I was really impressed. They handled going in and out of the groups like pros. There was always someone dancing. It starts with 1, then 2, then a third will join. Then one person will drop out and another will pop in. It was so organic and natural, I wish I could do that. Anyway, I just did two solos to music unplanned but that I had heard before. They girls are super sweet and presented flowers at the end. They have so much respect and appreciation for Mishaal and dance, I hope to someday have a group of girls like that. sniff.

Here's me with Mishaal and her son.

Here are the girls before the show.

Needless to say, I didn't really eat dinner. I did have a strawberry smoothie and some nuts at Go-Kai, but that was it. I was so tired, I took a taxi home and went straight to bed.

This morning, I got a little pizza from Nagano Bakery. Man, that place rocks.

The reason why I titled this "Kabuki-za, not Kabukicho" was because I told one of the girls that I went to a "kabuki show", she thought I had said, "Kabukicho"... hee hee. Kabukicho is the red light district of Tokyo. I have to remember to say "Kabuki-za". It's actually the name of the theatre, but it's obvious what you go there for, I suppose.

Have a good week.

Posted by oneray at May 7, 2006 8:57 PM