Monday, February 8, 2016

Kabuki On Film

How fortunate to see a rare Kabuki performance outside of Japan! This last weekend was no exception as we were treated by the Japan Foundation to a free screening of Kagamijishi - The Lion Dance on high definition print at Little Tokyo's Aratani Theater. This was filmed in such high quality in 2009, it was as if seeing it in 3D with surround sound. Normally we would say nothing beats a live performance but this screening of the Lion Dance that was recorded at the Kabuki-Za Theater in Tokyo was absolutely phenomenal as it is rare to witness! This was performed by Japan's National Treasure & Master Kabuki Actor Kanzaburo who plays both Yayoi (the reluctant lady in waiting) and the spirit of the Shishi (Lion) in the most physically demanding role in one of Kabuki's most powerful and challenging plays. Dating back to the early Meiji Period, the Lion Dance is as popular as it was when it first premiered in 1893. Set in the mid 19th Century, a young maiden Yayoi is living within the confines of Edo Castle. Hidden from the temptations of the world outside, she yearns to express her dreams of liberation of the world outside the castle walls. But as fate would have it she is summoned by the Shogun to perform a dance before a rice altar and stone lion heads by which one lion head quickly possesses her. In the madness that consumes her, the spirits of the butterflies appear played by two child actors who deliver a mesmerizing performance before the appearance of the raging Shishi Lion who swings his long mane reaching out to the universe of pure emotion. We do not know if this will be performed live in the United States anytime in the future but if the opportunity to screen this performance comes around, we highly recommend this visual cultural feast of sensations captured in digital media that will leave you breathless and wanting for more.

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