Notes on MANABU 2012

An image from ‘Ikkyū’, by Sakaguchi Hisashi (Kodansha)

On October 23 2012 the twelfth edition of MANABU, a seminar for Italian researchers hosted by the ISEAS (Italian School of East Asian Studies) took place. The event, which I had the pleasure to organise, was hold in Italian so here are some notes in English for those who could not attend. The meeting brought together scholars from various research fields: Matteo Casari (Bologna) is an anthropologist, Katja Centonze (Tokyo) specialises in contemporary dance/performance, Monique Arnaud (Venice) is a Noh instructor and theatre director, and myself. Silvio Vita, director of ISEAS, has been a wonderful host, facilitating the discussion and organising post-meeting events.

Matteo Casari (University of Bologna) introduced the topic of Noh and Manga, looking at Noh-inspired manga such as Hana yori mo hana no gotoku and Ikkyū (which, I learnt, is surprisingly translated in Italian) and to manga-inspired Noh, such as Umewaka Rokurō’s Kurenai Tennyo. Katja Centonze described the work of dancer/musician/choreographer Alessio Silvestrin and his collaboration with Noh practitioner Tsumura Reijirō, presenting clips of Kakekotoba, Monique Arnaud talked about her directing work in Venice, showing  clips of her most recent production Silent Moving, taking place in the interiors of the magnificent Palazzo Ducale, Venice, implementing techniques borrowed from Japanese traditions such as bunraku in a modern ‘Theatre du Complicite’ style. My presentation introduced the issue of limiting the study of Noh to Japanese literature departments. I suggested that, in order to prevent Noh to become a museum piece, it should be also studied as performance in theatre departments, just like Shakespeare or Aeschylus are.

After the conference we went to my teacher, Udaka Michishige’s okeikoba in order to observe the training session. Since Arnaud and I are both students of Udaka-sensei, we were called on stage for our okeiko. This was not my intention as I thought we would go with the purpose of introducing our guests, but it is difficult to say ‘no’ to your teacher…

We enjoyed the day, especially the rare chance to discuss with members from different backgrounds, and we concluded the day agreeing on the intention of creating another similar event (in English) in the not-so-far future.

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