Kolkata, Feb 27 (IBNS) Drinking tea is so common to us in India that only a personal choice, Darjeeling orthodox or Assam’s CTC, can become a debatable point. But in Japan, the process of tea making and drinking evolved into an elaborate ceremony that can stretch from 40 to 45 minutes.
A wonderful series of Noh events coming up in London!
Noh Reimagined – The Contemporary Art of Classical Japanese Theatre
Friday 13 and Saturday 14 May 2016, Kings Place, London
Art, Music, Dance & The Divine
Noh originated in the 14th century and has been performed continuously since, making it among the oldest unbroken performance traditions in the world. Noh’s aesthetic concepts, unique musical rhythms and tempos influenced many Western artists in the 20th century, including Benjamin Britten. This two-day festival explores the art of Noh, which continues to inspire many practitioners across diverse art forms.
King Place continue their collaboration with Akiko Yanagisawa of mu: arts in presenting some of the foremost Noh performers from Japan to the UK. These performers, all of whom are recognised as intangible cultural assets by the Japanese Government, will be joined by innovative British artists at the cutting edge of the UK’s vibrant interdisciplinary arts scene. The festival’s aim is to communicate the essence of classical Noh and explore how its distinctive aesthetic and musical textures have become valuable resources for the contemporary visual, musical and theatrical arts.
Yakult, Daiwa Anglo-Japan Foundation, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, The Japan Foundation, Arts Council England and Arts Council Tokyo generously support the Noh Reimagined Festival.
Overview of the two-day festival:
• Highlights from the popular classical Noh repertoires including Tenko, Takasago and Toru performed by pre-eminent Noh artists from Japan, such as Yoshimasa Kanze (main actor-dancer) and Yukihiro Isso (Nohkan flautist and accomplished improviser).
• ‘Evan Parker Meets Noh’ A ground-breaking collaborative improvisation with the renowned saxophonist Evan Parker and Noh musicians, combine for an evening of virtuoso improvisation.
• ‘Masking and Unmasking: Noh Theatre as a Strategy in Contemporary Art and Performance’ explores the place of Noh in contemporary visual arts and performance, starting with a screening of Turner Prize winner Simon Starling’s ‘Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima)’. This is followed by three collaborative performances and a panel discussion featuring Ignacio Jarquin, Andrew G Marshall and Michael Finnissy, Ami Skånberg Dahlstedt and Palle Dahlstedt, as well as David Toop and Wiebke Leister exploring the psychological and aesthetic significance of voice and face-masks in Noh.
• Premieres of new works for Noh instruments by Andrew Thomas and Nicholas Morrish-Rarity, who have collaborated with Noh musicians on the Sound and Music Portfolio programme over the past eight months.
• ‘Noh Remixed’ Award-winning composer/turntablist Mariam Rezaei premieres OM, a live remix of traditional Noh stories exploring experimental improvisation in live performance, with electric guitarist Adam Denton and Noh performers.
• ‘Cross-cultural Collaboration and Contemporary Music’ A panel discussion with composers Nicola LeFanu, Ruth Fainlight and Sound and Music Portfolio composers chaired by Richard Whitelaw, Director of Programmes at Sound and Music.
• ‘Movement in Noh: The Dynamism of Stillness’ A workshop in which participants will learn to focus their inner energy through the highly stylised movements of Noh.
• ‘Music of Noh’ A workshop offering insight into the unique features of Noh music, which consists of chant and song accompanied by the Nohkan flute and three drums to create a distinctive sense of ‘ma’ (or ‘space’).
• ‘Knowing Noh’ An introductory talk by eminent Noh practitioner Professor Richard Emmert.
Full listings are available on the Kings Place website:
Dedicated project microsite: noh.muarts.org.uk
Press Contact: Akiko Yanagisawa (mu:arts) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 07782343632
On November 18th I attended the 60th Anniversary symposium, organised by Hosei University’s Nogami Memorial Noh Research Institute. As Prof. Yamanaka Reiko explained in her introduction, the symposium was the latest of six decennial events that mark the growing progress and outstanding research results of the Research Centre. This year’s symposium was entitled ‘Noh no shosa wo kangaeru‘ (‘reflections on the shosa of Noh). Shosa literally means behaviour or comportment, but it is generally used in the performing arts to indicate ‘movement’. As Yokomichi Mario has described in volume IV of the Iwanami Shoten lectures series on Nogaku, in Noh shosa refers both to the dance and to the mimetic aspects of Noh movement.
The symposium opened with a talk by Ondrej Hýbl, a student of Okura-ryu Kyogen actor Shigeyama Shime, who introduced the activities of the Kyogen company he founded in Prague. Hýbl has been involved in Kyogen training in Kyoto as he studied at Osaka University. The achievements of his Czech Kyogen group are truly amazing! (check out this video of the Kyogen Kuchimane). During his speech Hýbl emphasised the need to discuss ways of opening the teaching of Noh and Kyogen outside Japan. I will talk more about this towards the end of the post.
The second talk was given by Kōno Yoshinori, a famous swordsmaster, who talk about changes in the swordsmanship techniques in relation to body parts such as thighs and lower back, which are also fundamental in Noh movement. You can see more about Kōno-sensei on YouTube.
The third talk was given by Nakatsuka Yukiko, who demonstrated the work in progress of a team of researchers she is part on 3D digitalisation and reconstruction of Noh movement. The team has produced a software they call ‘composer’, basically a sequencer drawing on a database of Noh kata acquired with motion capture techniques, that can be mounted in sequences and adjusted in time and speed, in order to suit various kinds of chants. With the Noh composer it is possible to reproduce Noh dance just by knowing which kata are executed, without the need of an actor. One of the main purposes of such technology is to record movements of Noh actors today so that they can be studied in detail in the future, something that cannot be done by simply noting kata in words. Though this kind of technology is moving its first steps, sometimes with rough-looking results, I am sure they will reach a very high level soon. 20 years ago we played Tetris, now we have Call of Duty.
Then followed two conversations. The first was between Noh actor Kanze Tetsunojō and Prof. Yamanaka, touching various aspects of the transmission of Noh movement. Despite his wide experience, it seems to me that Tetsunojō-sensei still is very much grounded in the traditional environment in which he grew up. By his own admission he has little idea of how to help the spreading of Noh outside Japan, a topic I was hoping to hear more on from his perspective. The second conversation, between Kabuki actor Nakamura Kyōzō and Prof. Kodama Ryūichi, discussed Kabuki movements in various styles, also comparing Noh with Kabuki.
A general discussion closed the symposium. I am very happy to have participated to the event, which was brilliantly conducted by Prof. Yamanaka Reiko. While Noh is imprisoned in literature courses outside Japan, it was very refreshing to attend a conference entirely dedicated to movement. I am convinced that Noh should always be taught as performance everywhere it is introduced. It is the only way to save it from the commonplace image of old and boring theatre. However, the wealth of performance theory available in the English language is unavailable in Japan, where traditional performing arts still reside in an academic field isolated from theatre studies. Will post more about this topic as soon as an important publication I have contributed to comes out in print.
As for the dissemination of Noh abroad, Hýbl-san pointed out a crucial aspect of Nogaku: both Kyogen and Noh are arts where perfection is valued, not creativity. This made me think of how Noh actors are more like sportsmen than artists: they spend their lives training on fixed models, largely ignoring all that does not belong to this world. While non-traditional artists draw inspiration from various sources, often deepening the knowledge of other arts (cinema, literature, painting) or even travelling and living abroad, 99% of Noh actors live in isolation from the world. Obviously when they are confronted with questions such as ‘how do you spread Noh abroad’ the answer is something like: “well, I don’t know… Noh is like this, take it or leave it”. From their perspective there does not seem to be a need of exploring outside its ‘traditional’ boundaries. Where this attitude will lead, I am not sure. What I am sure, though, is that 90% of the audience who attended the symposium on a Sunday afternoon was over 60 years old, which means that in some 30 years they are likely to be all dead. Will they have passed their interest for Noh down to their grandsons by that time? If not, I wonder who will still go to the Noh theatre, except for me and a few others I know (if we are still around). Edward Shils wrote that when tradition becomes useless, it dies. Will it survive in computer generated animations? I hope not.
What I am more and more realising while I am in Japan, is that if foreigners want to learn Noh, they should not expect Japanese institutions to offer ways of doing it. We non-Japanese who have an interest in Noh should get together and do our best to discuss ways of transmitting Noh abroad. As Hýbl pointed out, Nogaku is taught and learnt by imitation, not through books. It is then necessary to find a way for Noh and Kyogen masters to frequently travel or to live for longer periods outside Japan, or for foreigners to live for longer periods in Japan, where they could learn the art and then be able to transmit it to the ‘outside world’. Thanks to the efforts of the International Noh Institute, I feel I am on the right track. I look forward to discussing again about this very important topic with Ondrej Hýbl, Prof. Yamanaka, and the other scholars who took part of the symposium.
PS: speaking of anniversaries, this is my 100th post! : )
I am spending a couple of weeks in my hometown, Brescia, Italy, where I return quite often not only to visit my family and friends, but also to train with Monique Arnaud, the Noh teacher that first introduced me to Noh theatre. Arnaud is a shihan, a Noh instructor licensed by the iemoto of our stylistic school, the Kongō School of Noh. Arnaud, who is originally French, has spent most of her life abroad, first in China, then Japan, then Italy, where she currently resides, working as opera choreographer, and teaching theatre directing at IUAV University of Venice.
These days I am working on the maibayashi from the Noh Kiyotsune (清経). Maibayashi is one of the various canonical ways of performing excerpts of a Noh play, such as shimai (short dance with the accompaniment of a small chorus) or rengin (seated chant of a section of a play). Maibayashi (舞囃子) is a word composed by the characters for ‘dance’ (舞 mai) and ‘Noh instruments’ (囃子 hayashi). Unlike shimai, the maibayashi features the accompaniment of chorus and of the Noh orchestra, and is usually longer than an average shimai, often featuring an instrumental dance between two sections of the play. Kiyotsune is a play from the second category (Warrior plays) and tells the story of Taira no Kiyotsune (平 清経) a general of the Heike clan appearing in the Heike Monogatari epic who drowned himself at Yanagi-ga-ura (present Kitakyūshū) after realising the unavoidable defeat of his army, chased by the Genji clan. Just before committing suicide, Kiyotsune cuts his hair and gives them to his retainer Awazu no Saburo, instructing him to present it to his wife as a keepsake. The Noh opens with Saburo returning to Kyoto, where Kiyotsune’s wife awaits for the return of her husband. Once Saburo tells her about her husband, the wife is shocked and laments how Kiyotsune failed to keep the promise to reunite with her, and refuses the gift. Still in tears, she goes to sleep, where Kiyotsune visits her in dreams. In the second half of the play the ghost of Kiyotsune, in full warrior attire, appears, and discusses with the wife. This is a most interesting section, with Kiyotsune blaming the wife for having refused his gift, while the wife blames him for the selfish act of committing suicide. Blaming each other in what seems like a domestic fight, the couple realises how their condition is similar, both suffering from loss and longing, as this world and the other world are made of the same substance. Kiyotsune then recounts his last days, and, in the final dance, he mimes how he now suffers in hell, where rain is like arrows pouring from the sky, mountains are like iron castles, and enemy warriors advance inesorably like flags of clouds. As it often happens in Noh, it is thanks to the power of the narration of one’s own story (as in a psychoanalysis session) that the characters come to realise the inconsistence of their pain, and manage to get rid of the attachments that prevent them to reach enlightenment. In this case, Kiyotsune reaches enlightenment not only thanks to the nenbutsu prayer he recites before jumping into the water, but also because he comes to terms with his wife. In a way, it is not only the dissatisfaction with his own death, but also the resentment that his wife feels for him that cause his suffering.
I have already performed the maibayashi from the Noh Kochō (胡蝶) a couple of years ago, which contains a standard chu-no-mai medium tempo instrumental dance. However, in Kiyotsune there is no dance between the kuse and kiri sections, but a short exchange between husband and wife, before the kiri closing section where Kiyotsune recounts his torments in the hell of the ashura, the defeated warriors who remain attached to this world and cannot reach enlightenment are destined to suffer. This section is characterised by the guntai martial style, in which the kamae basic stance is performed in han-mi style, slightly lateral instead of frontal. This stance is typical of martial arts, and basically aims at avoiding to offer the front of the body to the opponent, while at the same time presenting the arm that would hold a sword or shield. As maibayashi are not in costume, this dance is performed with two fans – one is open and represents the shield, the other the sword. Handling two fans at the same time is not easy, though the greatest difficulty of the martial stile consists in performing jumps and other more acrobatic movements while maintaining the stability and solidity typical of Noh dance. As a ‘caucasian’ I also find that my legs are longer that the average east-asian: in order to take a good posture I have to bend my knees much more than the usual, which in the case of a warrior is already a lot! This puts much stress on knees and thighs, and naturally leads me to reflect on the extent to which Noh is a form of art tailored around a specific body type (male Japanese), and might not immediately fit other bodies. What is the future of the Noh bodies?
The new issue of the Journal Prove di Drammaturgia, entirely dedicated to Noh theatre, features my article on the first Noh theatre performance in the West in Venice 1954. The journal is available here. The journal is entirely in Italian, though I am currently working on an English version of the essay.
Prove di Drammaturgia n.1/2012
data di pubblicazione: febbraio 2012
TEATRO NŌ, ORIZZONTI POSSIBILI
a cura di Matteo Casari
A partire dal Teatro nō: una dinamica a doppio binario
TEATRO NŌ, UNA TRADIZIONE CONTEMPORANEA
Atti del convegno
(Bologna, Salone Marescotti, 10 novembre 2011)
Umewaka Naohiko, La fisicità nel prendere un caffè
Umewaka Naohiko, Passeggiata in casa: appunti di un attore nō sul confine tra il mondo interiore ed il mondo esteriore
Matteo Casari, Il nuovo nō: continuità di discontinuità
Bonaventura Ruperti, La creazione di nuovi nō in epoca moderna. Il fascino inesauribile di un’arte
Claudia Iazzetta, Il nō, l’arte dell’incontro
Giovanni Azzaroni, La tradizione resistente. Conservazione o innovazione: qui sta il problema
Lydia Origlia, Yukio Mishima e l’incantevole mondo del nō
Diego Pellecchia, “Leoni che folleggiano fra le peonie in fiore”: spettacoli di teatro nō al XIII Festival Internazionale ‘Biennale’ di Venezia (1954)
IL RISTORANTE ITALIANO
Umewaka Naohiko, Il ristorante italiano. Lo spettacolo più bello del mondo
Angela Grasso, Teatro nō. Polarità a confronto. Recensione dello spettacolo “Il ristorante italiano”
For all those in the vicinity of Milan, Italy – February, 25 Noh Theatre Workshop with Monique Arnaud (Kongo School)
Il Noh è considerato tra le espressioni più alte della discipline giapponesi. I suoi movimenti, spazianti dalla lentezza dei Noh lirici alla velocità dei Noh dinamici, sono in grado di comunicare energia e dinamismo sia a chi è sul palcoscenico che agli spettatori.
L’ignoto, l’invisibile e l’interiorità sono invitati a manifestarsi. L’attore deve farsi carico di questo compito attraverso la precisione di un movimento memorizzato e interiorizzato fino a poter agire al di là della consapevolezza. Allora si scopre una totale libertà, dove i confini tra attore, spazio scenico e spettatore sembrano essere aboliti.
Saranno studiati i kata ed il canto di una danza shimai. Il caratteristico passo scivolato, il respiro, l’emissione della voce e l’uso del ventaglio, il cui significato è tutt’altro che ornamentale, consentiranno di associare i movimenti ad immagini poetiche suggerite dal testo.
Una documentazione tecnica ed illustrativa sarà a disposizione dei partecipanti durante lo stage.
Non è richiesta la conoscenza…
View original post 12 more words
It is difficult to find words to illustrate what was meant to describe the indescribable.
This is Sakura. A Tribute to Japan: an Italian project by Gio’ Fronti, directed by Alessandra Pescetta, and starring Monique Arnaud, a short film dedicated to the victims (dead and alive) of the Fukushima disaster. Arnaud, director of the International Noh Institute branch of Milan is the only Noh shihan (licensed instructor) to be currently active in Europe as teacher and performer. Her dance in the video is inspired by Noh movements, and she wears a costume realised by disassembling 10 paper tracksuits that recall those worn in contaminated areas, and by sewing them together into a Noh-inspired costume. The voice (in Japanese, subbed in Italian) describes the dreadful coming of the tsunami, when the clouds fell into the ocean, and the sky was left empty. But with the wind comes the beauty of cherry blossoms… Please click on the picture below to watch the video on Vimeo (I could not embed).
AsiaTeatro is a new project coordinated by Carmen Covito (writer and translator), dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge of Asian traditional performance in the Italian language. AsiaTeatro is both a website and an academic journal. The website offers introductory notions of performance traditions belonging to the four geographic areas in which it is subdivided (Japan, China, India and South-East Asia). Subsections dedicated to specific genres explore in greater detail each topic, while a rich bibliography provides the reader with a general overview of the scholarship produced to date.
The content of the sections is written in a style devoid of specialist jargon or theoretical shorthand, and is a valid and much needed resource for Italian students, or for anyone who wishes to take an interest in Asian performance.
The other day I was doing some winter clothes shopping at the local Uniqlo store when something peculiar happened. For the past couple of weeks I have been living in Dazaifu (Fukuoka prefecture), a small, yet historically relevant village where the ‘Asian-other’ population (Korean and Chinese) is rather large, while ‘Western-looking people’ are almost unknown. I am now getting used to people staring at me when I go to the local supermarket – something that never happened to me in places such as Kyoto or Osaka. Anyway, what happened at Uniqlo was much more interesting than the usual grannie freezing at my sight in the middle of the miso aisle. A group of 4 kids (5 to 7 years old I would say) and their mum where also checking out clothes when they bumped into me. The mother was holding a 5th baby in her arms and I could tell from her built and facial features that she was half-Japanese, half-caucasian, probably American. I am not good at numbers and genealogy, but I would say that if she were half, her kids should be at least 1/4th something (either Japanese or Western, depending on the father). Fact is that the 4 kids where literally shocked at my sight. They forgot about their mum and started following me. They would not speak to each other but just stare with huge, glaring eyes. What were they looking at? What did they see? I should say that this is not the first bunch of kids I meet in Dazaifu, but their reaction was completely different: Japanese kids might be curious to check out how a foreigner looks like, but they are usually not so insistent. This group of kids, instead, was literally x-raying me, speechless, with eyes so big that I could see my face reflected in them… or was this what they actually saw in mine?
I might be wrong here, assuming much about their background that I don’t know, but I had the clear impression that these guys, growing up in the countryside, with almost zero exposure to foreigners, saw in my face, completely different from what they are used to in their everyday life, something that belonged to them. It could be the face of their father, or uncle, or grandpa. It certainly isn’t that of their school teacher, even of her mother: it is alien to the models they apprehend in their everyday-life. The encounter with something that somehow belongs to them, though they still cannot recognise it as such, shocked these kids as much as it shocked me. I don’t know whether their mum realised what was going on or not (she was very busy with her baby) and I was left to wonder whether this encounter became a topic for conversation or not. It surely was a very, very interesting experience for me…