Kabuki Dance Techniques

Dance in the kabuki theater has a great number of characteristic patterns and styles of posing the body. These patterns and poses are learned, by both dancers and audiences, through corporeal experience, and are not formalized into a written system of choreography.1 We offer here some basic patterns that one will encounter in kabuki dance, ways of holding the body, ways of movement, and ways of using hand properties that include particular meanings in this art form.

The dance master Bandō Kotoji, who performed for the videos we have here and led the workshop demonstrating techniques, says that there are two basic modes of acting in kabuki dance:

  • monomane, in which a performer takes on the bodily style of a character type, and 
  • mitate, a mode of substitution in which one thing, usually a hand prop, stands in for another.

Bandō-san explains and demonstrates monomane.

Bandō explains mitate.

GloPAD video 1007238

  1. 1. For a rich introduction to Japanese dance choreography and an attempt to systematize its terms, see Fundamentals of Japanese Dance by Hanayagi Chiyo.
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