Dance titles Kotobuki Shiki Sanba  In Japanese
Kotobuki Shiki Sanbas˘  In Japanese
Shiki Sanbas˘  In Japanese
Author Kineya Rokuzaemon X (music)

The sanbas˘mono were Kabuki versions of the old drama "Okina". The oldest sanbas˘mono was most likely staged in 1678 at the Nakamuraza. Often staged within kaomise or new year performances, this auspicious celebratory dance was a ritual showing the okina (the first old man, usually played by the zamoto), his attendant the senzai (usually performed by the heir of the zamoto) and the vigorous sanbas˘ (usually performed by the zagashira). The current Nagauta-based "Kotobuki Shiki Sanbas˘" dance-drama was staged for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1859, in Edo at the Nakamuraza [casting]. It was originally entitled "Kotobuki Shiki Sanba".

Key words Eboshi
Heian Jidai

Okina (N˘)

All of the "Sanbas˘" plays in the Kabuki repertoire stem from the play "Okina", although "Kotobuki Shiki Sanbas˘" is probably the closest to the original. However, in Kabuki the main emphasis is always on the jovial sanbas˘ character, rather than on the okina himself. This exemplifies the difference in spirit between Kabuki and the more solemn .

"Okina" is said to derive from an ancient sighting, at the Kasuga Shrine in Nara, of an old man (taken to be the kami) dancing under a pine tree. (The pine tree is used as a background to all plays as a reminder of the origin of this first play, and to emphasise the religious aspects of . It is also used in all Kabuki plays which derive from .) Thereafter, a human dancer emulated the old man's dance at shrine festivals, hoping to be possessed by the kami, and from this the formal play of "Okina" developed. It is usually performed on felicitous occasions, and is still imbued with a great deal of sanctity. It now consists of three dances, by the young man senzai; by the elderly okina, who becomes the kami and who dances with calm and deliberation; and finally by the comic sanbas˘, who in Okina is played by a Ky˘gen actor. This represents the three stages of a Shint˘ ritual: a kami is invoked, comes forth, dances, and is sent off.

The Kabuki "Kotobuki Shiki Sanbas˘" closely follows this formula, although it sometimes uses two actors to represent the character of the senzai. It is solemn and dignified and there is no narrative or plot, but only ritual to wish the audience prosperity. It is usually performed at the start of a New Year.

The first section of the play is very much in the style of . After a musical introduction in which the singers' words are filled with propitious imagery, the senzai is the first character to enter, carrying a box containing a mask representing the okina. He is followed by the actor playing the okina, dressed as a Heian courtier of the Eleventh Century. The box is reverently presented to him, and even though it is not usual for him to use the mask in Kabuki, from this moment he takes on the status of a kami, and gives his blessings to the audience.

The senzai then dances, followed by the okina, who wishes to take part in the celebration, and who prays for tranquillity throughout the land, giving the audience further blessings. After his dance, his role is at an end. He bows deeply out of respect for the gods, and leaves the stage. The box containing his mask is also removed.

For the second, more light-hearted, section of the play, the usual pine tree backdrop is replaced by one showing cranes, and the comic sanbas˘, more important in Kabuki than in , dances to convey his own blessings, and apologises for not being as good as his illustrious predecessors. His dance is livelier than the preceding ones, and contrasts with the gravity of the okina, whilst the text evokes auspicious images, such as the crane and the tortoise which represent longevity.

The senzai dances again, recalling firstly the story of the sun goddess Amaterasu, and then a visit to a shrine and a marriage. Ultimately he dances with the sanbas˘, who confers further blessings for prosperity on the audience with a stick of bells, which represent grains of rice and harks back to the agricultural origins of many Shint˘ ceremonies. It may also have echoes of demon-quelling rituals. The dance ends with further blessings being conferred upon the theatre.

Summary written by Marion Hudson (2015)

The actor Nakamura Tsurusuke I playing the role of the sanbas˘ in the dance "Kotobuki Shiki Sanbas˘", which was staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1825 at the Kado no Shibai (print made by Juk˘d˘ Yoshikuni)

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