The Japan Foundation, Bangkok
The Japan Foundation, Bangkok, hosted Nishiki-e exhibition focusing on Yauksha-e (actor prints), started at recently opened Museum of Siam in Bangkok on December 8, 2008. At the opening ceremony of the exhibition, Kabuki dance and lecture-demonstration were performed.
Immediately after this event was announced, we were inundated with inquiries. Thus the first day gathered a large audience, old and young alike. The program started with "Sanbasou" ("Mai" dance) by Kotoji Bando, followed by a lecture of kabuki and nishiki-e, and demonstration of make-up and costume dressing unique to Kabuki. The audience gave a laugh when a lecturer explained that a small mouth was considered as sexy (in Edo Era), or that a woman with smooth, single-edged eyelids was considered as better-looking than the one with double-edged eyelids. The audience showed a great interest when it took two people to get a person dressed in kimono of a princess.
Next, two young actors came onto the stage and said, "We can dance Japanese classical dance to any kind of music. Today, we will show you how to dance Japanese classical dance while you remain seated." Then they showed how to move their hands in easy-to-follow way, and the audience had fun (some were shyly) imitating the hands movement. When these two young actors danced Japanese classical dance to Thai pop music, both Japanese and Thai people were equally amazed.
The event was concluded with "Yoshino Yama (Mt.Yoshino)," one of the masterpieces of Kabuki dance. It was fascinatingly elegant, valiant, and at the same time marvelous and humorous, just like we were facing cherry trees in full blossom. It was truly spectacular, supported by the confidence of dancing technique. Everyone at the theater was absorbed by the professional skill that was demonstrated up close. This experience must have induced many people to hope to see full-length play of Kabuki. It was impressive that, after the event, not a few people went back to the exhibition to appreciate Nishiki-e of Kabuki actors and scenes.
The last time full-scale Kabuki performance was presented in Thailand was in 1996 when the Japan Foundation hosted the performance by Ennosuke Ichikawa. We hope we can invite such performance soon. (The Japan Foundation, the Japan Arts Council, and National Theatre of Japan co-hosted this project in Indonesia and Thailand in November through December 2008.)