Today’s Words: Kabuki, Technique & Options

In my recent workshop trip to Japan, my sponsor treated us to a wonderful opportunity to attend kabuki theater. We saw a production on its opening night, and we were intrigued by all of it: acting style, facial expressions, staging, costuming, symbolism, etc.

Kabuki began in the early 1600s, and originally was performed exclusively by women. The format of Kabuki changed quickly by the mid-1600s to be performed only by men, who played both male and female roles. Other changes occurred over the years to result in the traditional format known today. (The history of kabuki is quite interesting, so I encourage you to research it.)

We had the pleasure of watching Matsumoto Koshiro IX, a very famous Kabuki actor; evidently the tradition is often handed down through the generations through families. But what I found interesting is that many well known Kabuki actors are quite versatile, also performing in film, television and Western stage plays. Despite performing in such a unique, specific and traditional acting style, they apply their acting technique and training to other formats. When mentioning that we saw Matsumoto, many people commented that we were so fortunate to see such a famous actor, and then they followed up with the fact that he was known for his Kabuki AND television roles.

So it is with dance: if you have a solid foundation, you can can learn any style. By learning the basics of dance technique and developing your body’s musculature, you become a strong dancer who can make stylistic choices without being limited or labeled as one particular style. You have options and choices.


Kabuki, Technique & Options is part of our Today’s Word(s): Sometimes We Have Something to Say series in which we discuss in brief the common themes and questions facing dancers.

Image: Matsumoto Kishiro IX