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Kabuki – behind the scenes – Thursday, October 14th

Kabuki – behind the scenes – Thursday, October 14th

Kabuki performer

With its elaborate costumes and makeup, stylized story-telling and delicate music and dance, Kabuki is possibly the most well-known and prestigious traditional Japanese art form. Although quite popular in Japan, and around the world, there is a degree of knowledge and experience required in order to fully appreciate this sophisticated dance and drama performance.

Tomorrow, for only two performances, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and The Japan Foundation will present Backstage to Hanamichi – A Behind the Scenes Look at the Color, Magic and Drama of Kabuki. An explanatory lecture about the music, instrumentation, makeup, costumes – including the quick changes – and other formalities of Kabuki will be followed by an authentic Kabuki performance. Two dance classics Sagi Musume (The Heron Maiden) and Shakkyo (Lion Dance), were chosen to contrast the lyric style of the onnagata (meaning an actor specializing in female roles) with that of the dynamic, acrobatic style represented in the heroic Lion Dance. Sagi Musume is considered one of the most graceful dance for onnagata, while Shakkyo is said to be one of the most heroic dances for tachiyaku (meaning an actor specializing in male roles).

Kabuki, with its magnificent beauty and highly refined artistry, stands as a rare jewel amongst the great theater traditions of the world. Kabuki actors must undergo years of rigorous training in order to master its three artistic components of music (ka), dance (bu) and drama (ki) before being allowed to perform before an audience. In order to create the magic that is seen on stage, the kabuki actor is supported backstage by a team of unseen artisans and craftsmen, including costume stylists, wig masters, musicians and prop masters.

Backstage to Hanamichi provides the audience with a rare glimpse into the traditional world of this centuries-old theater and the detailed preparations that lead up to an actor’s grand entrance onto the hanamichi stage. The Hanamichi (meaning flower path) is the long stage that kabuki actors use to appear or exit the main stage. It is one of the main components of the Kabuki stage allowing the audience to experience the theatre to the fullest.

Visiting from Japan are two lead actors, Kyozo Nakamura and Matanosuke Nakamura, of the world-renowned Shochiku Company, who will assist with the presentation and performance. Kyozo Nakamura specializes in onnagata and says he has been dancing since he was 10 years old, progressing to study at the National Kabuki Institute when he turned twenty. He told me that he has been fascinated by Kabuki since he was an infant as his grandmother took him to many performances during his childhood. Matanosuke Nakamura also progressed to studying Kabuki when he was twenty, following his general academic education.

Supporting the two leading actors are two singers and five musicians who will be playing Shamisen, flute and Taiko.

After Los Angeles, the team of fourteen staff and the two performers will tour four other north American cities, moving from San Francisco (Oct 17th) to Seattle (Oct 19th), Portland (Oct 21st) and Denver (Oct 24th).

This program is presented in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary Celebration of The Japan America Society of Southern California.

Two Los Angeles performances only!
Thursday, October 15, 2009, 2pm and 8pm.

Aratani/Japan America Theatre
244 S. San Pedro St. Los Angeles, CA 90012.

TICKETS: $25 General Admission; $20 JACCC Members
Seniors, Students and Groups (10+) call for ticket prices

Box office (213) 680-3700 or order online
For further information, call Gavin Kelley (213) 628-2725 ex: 133

For performance information in other cities, check here.

review by Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.

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