Broad Range of Acting Styles
Some Kabuki acting styles are truly unique and can be seen in no other art form! For example, the colourful lines of makeup on the actors' faces and bodies, the grand poses, larger than life movements, as well as the shrill screams you sometimes hear are all thrilling in their impact! These are typical of the style called aragoto, 'wild stuff', used occasionally for masculine heroes.
But in total contrast, there is also the wagoto style for gentle, romantic men that is often amusing and delightful to watch. In history plays, we can enjoy more stylised acting, while in domestic plays it more closely reflects the real lives of the ordinary men and women of feudal Japan. Some of the special acting techniques in history plays are visually magnificent, such as the stop-motion mie pose that often creates a scene of picture-like beauty. The loud beats of the wooden blocks that usually accompany such poses add to the exciting sensation. Other forms of movement include the stylised fight scenes called tachimawari in which a group of opponents attack a single hero with carefully choreographed steps and acrobatic leaps and somersaults.
Many dances, with their combination of physical motion, music and acting, can be deeply affecting. Come and see the lovely, sensuous movements that seem to flow from one picture to the next, and try to pick out the subtle but meaningful gestures. There is a whole vocabulary of mime that has evolved with traditional Kabuki dance, and it is so enjoyable when we come to recognise the gestures for letter writing, for example, or for petals scattering in the wind. It really brings the poetic imagery to life when we hear the lyrics and see them reflected in the dance moves! And there is such a variety of dances to enjoy! A shy young girl may turn into a majestic lion with its impressive mane of hair, or a comic character in traditional wooden clogs may start an exciting tap dance! A sweet romantic maiden may turn into the spirit of a heron and, as the snowflakes fall all around her, tell of her suffering in hell! Kabuki dance could well be the most beautiful thing you have ever seen!