I am going to perform the shimai (short dance excerpt of a longer play) of the Noh Yashima on Friday 23rd November, on the occasion of Udaka Michishige’s performance at the Matsuyama Shimin Noh at the Dogo Yamatoya Nogakudo in Matsuyama.
This is my third shura-mono (warrior play) shimai after I danced the kiri section of Tamura, and the maibayashi of Kiyotsune. As I have pointed out in a previous post, dancing shura-mono (second category plays) is rather challenging because of the kamae posture which in the case of warriors often switches to the hanmi (lit. ‘half-body) martial mode. This posture, thrusting half of the body forward, and keeping the other half covered, is probably familiar to those who practice any kind of martial art. The idea is offering the least possible amount of body to the opponent, while being ready to attack.
Unlike the basic kamae, this position is fairly asymmetrical and requires advanced knowledge of weight distribution to master. One of the tricky bits of hanmi is walking: while basic kamae does not change while walking – one does not change much of the posture when either walking or simply standing – it is not possible to keep hanmi while taking more than a just a few steps. This means that the actor starts a movement in hanmi, then changes into a more symmetrical feet posture, and then ends the movement again in hanmi. Therefore, the last step of a walking sequence should be performed so that the body ends being in hanmi. Normally this produces a rather dramatic effect of enlargement of the figure of the shite as he comes to a halt, especially when approaching sumi, the corner of the Noh stage that is thrusted into the auditorium. Hanmi also influences all the other kata, for example shikake-hiraki (pointing and opening) might be performed in a right hanmi when pointing, switching to left hanmi when opening, and then back to normal.
My teacher seems to be keen on teaching me warrior dances lately: I don’t feel I am particularly prone to this kind of characters, but I trust my sensei’s experience of knowing when it is the right time to progress on this path.
Wish me good luck! (I might or might not have pictures of the performance to show in the future).