The widely popular form of Japanese theatre known as Kabuki, developed in the seventeenth century as an amalgamation of several elements of other popular types of traditional Japanese theatre. Initially a performance art based on dance with romantic and more often than not erotic themes, and primarily used women and young men as performers. Eventually, after many points of drama concerning the performers and the often sexual nature of the performances, during the 1660’s the kabuki troupes began stringing together several scenes into a form of play, focusing less on vignette style dances and moving more towards staged theatre. As popularity grew, the style of Kabuki moved more towards the character of actual theatre, most easily being reflected in the ever evolving set pieces and the push for more complex plots. The development of Kabuki seemed to hit a form or renaissance during what is referred to as the Genroku period, the late seventeenth century, where the art really flourished and a new wave of creativity hit. This is also the era in which Kabuki and the Japanese puppet theatre began to intermingle, and Kabuki was forever changed, and was continually refined in later years, into a true style of theatre rather than a somewhat acted dance.
Kabuki is credited to be first created by the Shinto priestess Okuni of Izumo, although there is quite little information on the circumstances that brought her to create this unique style of dance. The most likely origins of Okuni’s style of dance is that of Buddhist dances that were fused somewhat with traditional Japanese folk dances. Additionally, there is speculation that her dances were inspired by elements of nō taught to her by Nagoya Sanzaemon, but there are no detailed descriptions of her original dances, and therefore we must operate mostly on speculation rather than fact. Regardless of the fact that no detailed information survives on the original dances, it is quite certain that this original performance art gained popularity quite quickly, for Okuni lead several touring troupes of dances, and several licensed kabuki theatres emerged in Kyoto quite rapidly, and the art began evolving just as quickly.
Wilson, Edwin, and Alvin Goldfarb. Living Theatre History of Theatre. 6. New York: McGraw Hill, 2012. 94-99 Print.