Dance created for the entertainment of aristocracy is
•Almost as old as religious dance
•Difficult to separate from religious dance. In some cultures, rulers are both secular and religious leaders,or even considered gods themselves.
Historically dance was not only the privilege but the duty of the monarch to dance--and to dance well--in order to honor the source of his or her power, to display authority, to set standards of elegance and decorum by which members of the court would be judged, and to maintain the court hierarchy.
Purposes of Court Dance
•To Define and Display Power -
Military parades serve as a symbol of societal order, might, wealth and authority
In traditional court dances, one's status in court was shown by when, where, and with whom one danced.
•To award privilege or status
•To demonstrate and practice refinement
European dance manuals provide guidance for social etiquette as well as for dance steps.
• To preserve culture
Court dances often tell stories--legends, myths, religious stories, accounts of war--that are intrinsic to the culture of the society.
•To enhance culture through patronage
The Asante people were at the height of their power in early 19th century. They were known for their military skills. The Asanthene (the King) was the head of state, head priest & commander in chief, but was never an absolute monarch. He was appointed by a council of chiefs, whose powers were conferred by councils of lesser chiefs, with authority finally in the hands of the villages. The Asanthene traditionally was required to be an excellent dancer. Today the Asanthene has some cultural and legal powers, but is neither the head of state nor the commander in chief.
Ritual Day known as Big Adae Chiefs, sub-chiefs, elders, and court officials gather to reaffirm unity as a people and show homage to the Asanthene. There dances movements are refined and dignified, The dances are passed from generation to generation by each courtier, Anyone can dance , but must be skilled to avoid "drum censorship" and the consequent humiliation. The order of arrival and dancing is symbolic of the power of each chieftain, The lowest rank are first, those of greatest rank are last,
Asante court dances are still performed to unit the people. However the power today is elsewhere.
Jidaimono, history plays, were often set within the context of major events in Japanese history. They focused on the samurai class. These plays depict historical facts and dramatized accounts of warriors or nobles. Many of them are heavy tragedies relieved only by momentary flashes of comedy.
Sewamono, domestic plays, related to themes of family drama and romances. The the characters are commoners such as merchants, prostitutes, shopkeepers, firemen and so on. The plays often revolve around a conflict between a girl and boys, duty to one's family or a forbidden love which causes a dramatic climax. The love suicide plays center on romantic couples who cannot be together in life due to various circumstances and who decide to be together in death. These plays reportedly caused so many real-life "copycat" suicides that the government banned these plays briefly in 1723.
Shosa-goto, dance-drama, are almost exclusively dance. In the dance-drama, actors dance to the full accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music.
The traditional kabuki stage features a projection called a hanamichi (Links to an external site.)It. It is a walkway which extends into the audience for dramatic entrances and exits. The name is thought to derive from gifts of money, or hana, given by fans to their favorite actors. While making their entrance or exit on this ramp, the actors very often give important scenes.
Important characteristics of Kabuki theater include the mie, in which the actor holds a picturesque pose to establish his character. At this point his name is sometimes shouted by audience members to express appreciation of the actor's achievement. An even greater complement can be paid by shouting the name of the actor's father.
The audience set in a masu, square boxes with cushions on the floor for five people.
Sets, costumes and make-up in kabuki are generally recognized by theater people to be the most lavish and extravagant in the world. The nature of the actors character is expressed in his make-up.
Red lines: passion, heroism, righteousness, and other positive traits
Blue or Black: villainy, jealousy, and other negative traits
Green : supernatural
Purple : nobility
Many kabuki theaters were destroyed during the earthquake of 1923 and during World War II. Nowadays, the audience sits in western-style theatres.