There are many versions of the so-called "Sanbas˘" dance which are all derived originally from the ritualistic N˘ play "Okina", a felicitous number that is of ancient origin and probably has its source in some religious rite as a prayer for peace and a good harvest, later incorporated into the N˘ repertory. "Ninin Sanbas˘" is a version of the dance in which two sanbas˘ instead of one perform in the dance. This version was first seen in the Bunraku puppet theater adaptation, and proved highly successful. The late Ichikawa En'˘ I with his son who resembled him strongly, presented this Bunraku number in a Kabuki adaptation, which was staged in April 1936 at the T˘ky˘ Gekij˘, making effective use of their striking physical resemblance by presenting a twin pair of sanbas˘. "Ninin Sanbas˘" makes use of the Gidayű music instead of the lighter Kiyomoto or Nagauta music generally associated with others sanbas˘mono.
In the original form, three old men performed dances in turn, the trio being the okina (the old man), the senzai (the one thousand years old man) and the sanbas˘ (literally the third old man). The N˘ number is titled after the dignified and ritualistic first old man and is known as "Okina", but the Kabuki versions lay emphasis on the lighter, faster dance of the third old man and is generally entitled "Sanbas˘" Incidentally, the sanbas˘, even in N˘, is no longer portrayed as an old man but as a more lively character.
"Ninin Sanbas˘" is a version of the dance in which two sanbas˘ make their appearance on stage instead of the classic single sanbas˘. Following the dances of both the okina and the senzai, the two sanbas˘ wearing the traditional eboshi hat go through their lively dance, in the course of which one of the pair becomes quite out of breath and finds it difficult to keep up the pace. The second sanbas˘, seeing the other's suffering, does his best in a very humorous way to encourage his partner to continue the lively dance.
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