Dancing the tennyo-no-mai

Nochi-tsure of the Noh “Kamo” (this is not me!)

Tomorrow I will be dancing the tennyo-no-mai (a variation of the chu-no-mai) as nochi-tsure (supporting role in the second half) in the noh Kamo at a training session tomorrow. After many roles in ‘han-mi’ martial stance, I’m going back to a character with a rather feminine stance, probably the first time with awareness of the character. The nochi-tsure of Kamo is the mother of the thunder-god Wakeikazuchi, who later became a goddess herself. Goddesses of this kind are not easy to perform as they are both feminine and stately (‘godly’?) at the same time, and I have been instructed to use large arm movements (I would wear a chōken dance cloak in a full Noh) but keep a my knees together and take small steps. For people with big feet like myself (27.5cm) this is not an easy thing to do, as it forces you to slide-step for even less than the length of the actual foot. It might not be too difficult in a slow dance, but the tennyo-no-mai I am doing tomorrow is a rather ‘light’ dance, which is supposed to be performed smoothly and at a rather rapid pace, in creating contrast with the stronger and more imposing movements of the shite (the god Wakeikazuchi), dancing after the tsure.

Although Japanese actors too come in all shapes (from super-tall to extra-wide) I always find myself wondering whether this body of mine is not inadequate to perform this genre. Compared to east-asian standards, I have narrow shoulders, a long neck, long feet and most of all long arms, which means that I need to adjust all these proportions in order to look better in kamae (basic stance). I will need to make an extra effort and try to be stable despite the fast, little steps I have to take during the dance. However, the other day my teacher’s son revealed a good trick for people with long legs/feet… I shall try and see if it works tomorrow!

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