The Kabuki Dance event was a first time introduction of bona fide kabuki performers on an Israeli stage. The evening, which included two dance excerpts – The Heron Maiden and The Stone Bridge – gave but a minuscule taste of this 400-yearold popular form of theater, which preserve the same stylized musical dance dramas in traditional manner. All kabuki players are men, and some specialize in female roles.

Unlike butoh, the Japanese mid- 20th century avant-garde dance, which was highly acclaimed in the West before it was more widely accepted in Japan, kabuki, as well as the more sophisticated Noh theater, caters mostly to Japanese audiences of all classes.

The role of the heron maiden was skillfully played by Nakamura Kyozo with all the right coy head gestures, soft downcast eyes, delicate turned-in steps and perfect symmetry control of the kimono rim on the floor, by invisible foot work. As the tradition goes, the actor had several dress changes on stage, helped by a specialized assistant, a wizard in his own right, who flipped kimonos to fit various moods like disappearing cards and changed the actor’s props like a professional juggler.

The second piece, The Stone Bridge, was played by two actors portraying a male and a female lion, dressed in elaborate colorful outfits and stunning long manes – white for the male and flaming red for the female. Dancing simultaneously, the difference between physical attitude and convention of both genders became somewhat clearer.

We could well appreciate the moves, expressions, the beauty of the exotic components and, of course, the authentic music played live by eight musicians.

Like any traditional art form, one needs to have access to the cultural codes and conventions to fully appreciate the intricacy of the craft and the artistic nuances, since each choice, for instance, of color, shape, width and ties of the obi – the sash that is wrapped to hold the kimono – the outfit’s textile design or length of the sleeves, are all symbolic.

Even so, it was a pleasure to see this modest introduction to kabuki through those two dance sections, short lecture and makeup demonstration, giving us a glimpse into the exotic wealth of this enigmatic culture.

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