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Kabuki (歌舞伎 kabuki?) is the highly stylized classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. The individual kanji characters, from left to right, mean sing (歌), dance (舞), and skill (伎). Kabuki is therefore sometimes translated as "the art of singing and dancing." These are, however, ateji characters which do not reflect actual etymology. The kanji of 'skill' generally refers to a performer in kabuki theatre. Since the word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary", kabuki can be interpreted as "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre.[1] The expression kabukimono (歌舞伎者) referred originally to those who were bizarrely dressed and swaggered on a street.


History of kabuki

1603–1629: Female kabuki

The history of kabuki began in 1603 when Okuni of Izumo, possibly a miko of Izumo Taisha, began performing a new style of dance drama in the dry riverbeds of Kyoto.[2] Japan was under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate, enforced by Tokugawa Ieyasu, who ruled with shogun of the Tokugawa family.[3] The name of the Edo period is derived from the Tokugawa regime having relocated the capital city from its former home in Kyoto to the city of Edo. Edo is known in the present day as Tokyo. Female performers played both men and women in comic playlets about ordinary life. The style was popular instantly; Okuni was even asked to perform before the Imperial Court. In the wake of such success, rival troupes quickly formed, and kabuki was born as ensemble dance and drama performed by women—a form very different from its modern incarnation. Much of its appeal in this era was due to the ribald, suggestive performances put on by many troupes; this appeal was further augmented by the fact that the performers were often also available for prostitution.[1] For this reason, kabuki was also written "歌舞妓" (singing and dancing prostitute) during the Edo Period.

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