For any actor, the most basic, yet the most difficult thing to do is to ‘just stand on stage’. We try to ‘be natural’ – but there is not one single way of ‘looking natural’, yet we can perceive ‘naturalness’, which may also be interpreted as ‘confidence’. Since there is no set way of doing it, the inexperienced actor will try think about what kind of thing would be best to do in order to look natural.
We feel exposed, naked, we feel like we appear too neutral, too uninteresting. We feel compelled to express something by doing something. We chose to do something and we are judged by this choice.
In nō, there is no need to do all that, since we have kamae – we are told how to stand and look natural on stage – then it’s just a matter to do it properly. We are not judged on the basis of what we decide to do, but on the basis of how well we are reproducing a pre-existent form.
This actually extends well beyond just nō. In Japan you can find kamae everywhere. Hands together in front of the body, or along the sides. There is a kamae for sitting, with hands on your knees (men) or on your lap (women).