Kabuki Dancer

Kabuki Dancer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9784770027351
Publisher: Kodansha International
Publication date: 05/28/2001
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.53(w) x 8.65(h) x 1.12(d)

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Kabuki Dancer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
janeajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sawako Ariyoshi was a prolific Japanese novelist who died in 1984 at the age of 54. From what I can gather, her other novels are concerned with contemporary life and social issues. Three others, The River Ki, The Doctor's Wife and The Twilight Years have been translated into English. This one, however, is quite different -- it is a historical novel about Izumo no Okuni , the woman who invented kabuki in 16th-century Japan. According to all I have read, little is really known about her life -- she was born around 1572, perhaps served as a miko at the Grand Shrine of Izumo, danced on stages on the riverbed of Kyoto and at the Kitano Shrine, gathered a troupe of dancers and musicians who performed dances and romantic skits, merging drama with music and dance, attracted large crowds, performed for nobles and samurai and stopped performing around 1610. Times and accounts of her death vary from 1613 to the 1640s.Like so many other historical/biographical novels, Kabuki Dancer fleshes out the story of Okuni with romantic entanglements. But Ariyoshi seems less interested in character development than in historical background, local color, and the evolution of early kabuki, thankfully. I found I learned much about 16th century Japan --the turbulent rules of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu and their methods of unifying Japan. It's fascinating to compare what was happening in Spain and England, on the other side of the world, with Japanese history. Hideyoshi, after great military victories in the Japanese provinces, thought he could conquer Korea and China -- disastrously. While the Japanese initially embraced the "Southern Barbarian" fashions and the Kirishtani (Christians) -- Tokugawa recognized the divisive aspects of their influence and expelled them from Japan. Amidst the political turmoil, Okuni, a young rural girl from Izumo, travels to Kyoto with a small group of folk dancers and decides not to return home. She is entranced with dancing and the adulation of the audience. Ariyoshi, a playwright and sometime member of a dance company, traces the gradual evolution of kabuki from devotional dance to theatrical performance involving song, dance, plot and spectacle.Okuni was experimenting with performance art in Japan at the same time that Shakespeare was reinventing drama in England. There are no scripts of early kabuki -- the classic literature would have to wait until the 18th c. with Chikamatsu Monzaemon's plays for both bunraku and kabuki, but Ariyoshi suggests how the kabuki style gradually incorporated widely diverse elements.While Kabuki Dancer, though very readable, is not a great piece of literature, it is a fascinating historical novel about a period not well known in Western culture.