Danmari (a term for kabuki) (暗闘)

Danmari (暗闘) is a piece of choreography in Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors). In the choreography where the setting is usually dark, the actors on the stage move violently, engaged in mortal combat groping with each other or scrambling for a key object in the story. It is also written as 暗桃.

It is said that performances in the choreography started in kaomisekogyo (an all-star performance) during the Anei era (1772 - 1781) in Edo. However there is no universally accepted theory as to when the first kabuki, kaomisekogyo was performed.

The performance is usually played in the following way: In a night scene at a hokora (a small shrine) on a mountain, suspicious people in a bizarre costumes and makeup appea on stage as bandits (for example, TAIRA no Masakado), or as pilgrims (for example, FUJIWARA no Sumitomo), and fight each other silently for a treasure in exagerrated movements, accompanied by the slow rhythm of Kagura (sacred music and dancing performed at shrine). At the end of the performance, the black curtain in the background is dropped suddenly, making the stage lighted, and then the main curtain is closed after the actors on the stage make their final poses. (The ending style sometimes takes the following form: After the main curtain is closed, the principal actor disappears from the stage through hanamichi (the passage through the audience to the stage) in the roppo movement (a spirited movement associated with the mie (a special pose)). To make the story better understood by the audience, a scene to make the relationships between the characters on the danmari stage clear is provided for after the main curtain is closed.This scene is called "danmari-hodoki" (literaly, unraveling the danmari).

Initially, the kaomise performance, the first performance of the year, included a scene to introduce the zagashira (the leader of an actor troupe)-class actors in a contract with the theater to the audience, regardless of the story to be performed, and was called "omemie-danmari" (literally danmari for introducing actors). Initially, the introduction of zagashira-class actors took the simple forms of each making a long speech, called "tsurane," or fighting violently between two actors. However, over time, it changed into elaborate bizarre performances.

In the Kasei (1804 - 1928) culture era, the nature of the performance changed further, resulting in visual changes where the costumes of the actors on stage were removed during their performances to alter their roles to that of other characters: For example, the actor who wore a face mask for a tengu (long-nosed goblin) in a black costume suddenly changed into a bandit in a gorgeous costume. Before, danmari was played in Jidaimono (historical dramas), it also was played in sewamono (plays dealing with the lives of ordinary people) by Nanboku TSURUYA IV (the fourth).

Nowadays, danmari in jidaimono is called "jidai-danmari," which includes "danmari at the Kurama mountain," "danmari at Miya-jima Island," and "danmari at Ichinohara." With no specific story, ten plus actors appear on a stage and perform a play entangled with each other.

In sewamono, many of the scenarios include a danmari scene, where an actor acquires a prop, such as a letter or a treasure sword, and a new development starts on the next scene. This is called "sewa-danmari." Such danmari include the 'Ombobori scene' in Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (Tokaido Yotsuya ghost stories), the 'Mount Maruzuka scene' in "Nanso satomi hakken-den" (the story of the eight dog samurai and a princess of the Satomi family in the Nanso region), the 'Inasegawa Hyappongui scene' in "Sato Moyo Azami no Ironui" (Izayoi Seishin), the 'Yatsuyamasita scene" in "Kamino Megumi Wago no Torikumi" (Megumi no kenka (the fight of megumi), and the 'Akamonmae scene" in "Mekuranagaya Umegakagatobi" (Kagatobi).

Words derived from danmari
Danmari-o-kimekomu,' meaning keeping silent, originates in 'danmari' in kabuki, and has been changed into 'danmari' (meaning being silent).

[Original Japanese]