Vol. 66

New York, N.Y. 

This is NG!
Vol. 66

“Katakari Dance”

Kabuki Roots? Introducing Indian Traditional Dance

I Always have searched all over the world and brought a lot of different performing art groups to USA ,Europe worthy of showing to the West. One of the most memorable tasks was to bring one of the four major Indian dances “Katakari Dance” to the United States to tour

When I knew about this dance, because the information was that it resembled kabuki. Therefore for me there was something of interest. There was no way in those days to see this and I had no choice but to go there. I flew to India and went to Kerala State along the coast of southwest India seen. Kerala was an interesting place. It is a difficult place to go, but I highly recommend that you go if you are interested. Nowadays, there are many theaters where you can see Katakari, mainly in the city of Cochin, but there weren’t so many at that time, so I selected a group from national theater.

This Kathakali dance has been performing within the temples of Hindu and dances were dedicated to God, which flourished especially in the 16th and 17th centuries. The theme of the performance art, such as dance + theater, was mainly taken from Sanskrit’s two great epics, “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata”.

The development of the makeup and the story is just like Kabuki

When I arrived there, I was really surprised to see Katakari with my eyes. There is no Internet, and there is no CD. There is no YouTube, and there is not much media to introduce foreign cultures, so I was expecting what it would be like, but it will be full of surprises the first time I see it.

First of all, I was surprised the facial expressions and movements really feel like Kabuki’s ancestors,. I was also amazed by the fact that painting on the entire body of the whole body and the flashy makeup that draws lines on the face, which is very similar to Kabuki’s Kumatori. Only the eyes are very glaring and it is amazing to see them first. The eyes stand out as to why you can only glare your eyes. The costume was also flashy, and it was interesting to see that the finger movement was very different.

All actors are male, and even female characters are played by men, which is also same with Kabuki. Nowadays, there are cases where female actors are included, but originally all actors were men. Also,as the same as Kabuki where the program is really long, connecting stories after stories, for 10 hours, 11 hours, etc. Anyway, one program will often continues all day long.

Following the main story, the story of the tail comes out in various ways, and the story spreads more and more. The audiences also seem to be relaxed, you can have a meal and sometimes you can watch it all day as you go in and out of the venue. Such points are also like old ways of going to Kabuki theater. Tibet’s folk operas “all day” as well, so as many other folk attractions, especially in Asia.

Of course I can not do that for a long time at a show in New York, so I did a job of directing for about two hours. Before arriving here, I also asked you to give me various opinions, and I made it short so as to be about two and a half hours safely.

This performance of Katakali group after their tour of USA, became an opportunity to be known to the world

As I invited Katakari Dance to the United States, the groups often is dance will for the first time make roads outside India. I love to bring in to USA any group worthy of introductions to the West,the first time that no one has ever seen, I have always infected my passion to others but I am also very happy that I was able to spread Katakari abroad.

Now you can see a lot of these dancers on the Internet, so why not take a look, while looking for similarities with Kabuki?

Originally published as Vol. 55 in Weekly Biz, January 22, 2019; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz



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