Ayatsuri Sanbaso


Ayatsuri Sanbaso

The actor portrays a marionette bound by strings in a delightful harvest dance

The celebratory Sanbaso, an ancient folk dance, has been transformed into one of the most entertaining of Kabuki dance pieces. The actor must play a living marionette, moving as if manipulated by strings in a great test of strength and skill.


by Abe Satomi

Dance of Okina and Senzai

The scene opens on a Noh-inspired matsubame set. Two characters, Okina and Senzai, appear solemnly on the stage. Okina is a high-ranking god, while Senzai symbolizes youth. They advance to center stage and bow deeply, a show of respect as humans performing the role of gods. Senzai dances a young and bright piece, followed by Okina’s more dignified movement, including signature moments such as raising his sleeves slowly above his head and spreading his arms out widely. The lyrics, taken from the Noh play, celebrate the new year and pray for eternal prosperity. After the dance, the two actors bow again and exit.

[from left]Senzai(Ichikawa Komazo)、Okina(Nakamura Karoku) January 2005 Kabukiza Theatre


Sanbaso’s entrance

An assistant enters and bows. The background switches from a Noh-style pine tree to a crane, indicating that the performance is moving away from its Noh origins. The assistant opens a big box and lifts out an actor playing a Sanbaso marionette, which he props up in center stage. He untangles the threads and examines the doll. He raises the stringboard into the air, bringing the marionette to life. As the puppet master lifts Sanbaso’s hat, the music becomes more vibrant, and Sanbaso begins to move.

【Left】[from left]Sanbaso(Nakamura Kantaro)、Assistant(Onoe Matsuya) December 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】[from left]Sanbaso(Ichikawa Somegoro)、Assistant(Onoe Matsuya) April 2016 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Sanbaso(Nakamura Kantaro)、Assistant(Onoe Matsuya) December 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Puppet moves randomly as strings tangle

The introductory portion features lyrics expressing joy. Sanbaso shakes his sleeves and dances dynamically. He presents a number of stylized movements, such as stomping on the earth and flying like a crow. The strings then get tangled, ensnaring the “puppet”. As the speed picks up, the strings are cut, and Sanbaso collapses on the stage.

【Left】[from left]Assistant(Onoe Matsuya)、Sanbaso(Nakamura Kantaro) December 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】Sanbaso(Nakamura Kantaro) December 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Assistant(Onoe Matsuya)、Sanbaso(Nakamura Kantaro) December 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Seed-sewing dance

The assistant quickly lowers the stringboard and rearranges the strings to the mellow music of the shamisen. Sanbaso slowly begins to move, swaying to somewhat suggestive lyrics. He grabs a bell and acts as if planting seeds. He again dances lightly and prays for the harvest as the curtains close.

[from left]Assistant(Onoe Matsuya)、Sanbaso(Ichikawa Somegoro) April 2016 Kabukiza Theatre