Bandō Kotoji Dancing Sanbasō (三番叟)

Sanbasō is the celebratory dance that traditionally opens a kabuki season or marks the opening of a new theatre. Taken from the ritual dance Okina of the noh theater, it is a prayer for prosperity and abundance adapted to the kabuki stage. There are many variations of the dance in the kabuki theatre. This variation is known as the gokoku hōjo, or "prayer for the five grains." 


Bandō Kotoji, the dancer here and a master of kabuki dance, comments on this piece:

"Like the mere crow trying to fly like the magnificent crane" - a bird hopping refers to a proverb that a crow will try to imitate a crane and will sink in the water. This is the adaptation of that proverb to the performing arts. In this case the original bird hopping in the Sanbasō performance of the noh and kyōgen theatre is imitated by the kabuki actors. Thus the lyrics become a means of conveying the feeling that the acting is not really very good. In the original kyōgen version the bird hopping consists of three jumps into the air, just like a crane jumping once, twice, three times to fly off from a flooded rice field.
The spirit of kabuki dance is always that of modoki, or "performing as if." It is not a matter of acting naturalistically, just like the action, but rather of acting so as to seem like that being imitated. In accordance with this manner the performing aims for the heavy, serious thing to seem light and frivolous.
Therefore the original three leaps are done in kabuki dance as first two small bounds and only the third is done as a great leap into the air. Also the front facing performance of the kyōgen is done facing back to the audience to show a deferential posture. 

 

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