Coming to the Kimmel Center on March 25th is the Bando School of Kabuki dance! They’ll be performing four dances. Last time we learned about one of those dances, Chou no Michiyuki. This week we’ll explore the dance play Yoshinoyama, a piece from one of kabuki’s treasured 18 plays, Yoshitsune Sembon Zakura.
Yoshinoyama, Yoshino Mountain, is a michiyuki. A michiyuki is a dance play that typically portrays a journey. Often the travelling characters are lovers or their adventure has some sort of romantic implications. In the case of Yoshinoyama, Yoshitsune’s lover Shizuka is traveling with one of Yoshitsune’s men who has been charged with protecting her while Yoshitsune has embarked on a treacherous journey of his own. But there’s a twist!! The retainer accompanying her, Tadanobu, is a fox spirit disguised as Tadanobu who is actually at home caring for his sick mother.
When they stop beneath a cherry blossom tree to rest, Tadanobu wanders off. Alone and missing Yoshitsune, Shizuka tries to cheer herself up by playing the hand drum she’s brought with her. At the sound of it, Tadanobu comes bounding back out of the forest, surprising Shizuka as she had assumed he was off gathering supplies. Together, they dance. Seeing that Shizuka is still sad over missing Yoshitune, Tadanobu sets up a suit of armor for them to pretend is him. The suit is actually Yoshitsune’s and was a present to Tadanobu for his bravery when, earlier in the play, he had protected Shizuka and her hand drum from Hayami no Touta. Tadanobu then dances the tale of the heroic death of his older brother Satou Tsugunobu for Shizuka.
As he finishes, Hayami no Touta finally catches up to them. He was following them the whole time and springs into the scene. He has become infatuated with Shizuka and tries to take her. Mid-attack, he spots Tadanobu and is too overwhelmed by fear to follow through. Tadanobu starts bounding and springing around like a real fox, freaking Touta and his men out, forcing them to retreat. It turns out the hand drum Shizuka carries is made from the skins of the fox’s parents. He’s so pleased with himself for chasing off Touta that, as Shizuka and Tadanobu set off to finish their journey, he can’t help but move and act like the fox that he truly is.
Come see magical foxes and beautiful maidens at work on March 25th onstage at the Kimmel Center!