Jan 17th: Noh workshop

Today we visited the home of Udaka-san, who’s been performing Noh since his childhood. He demonstrated several examples of the different components of Noh performance including Dance and Song and helped us connect a lot of the things we saw prior to the interview in Haku Rakuten and Ikkaku Sennin.

I think the most important thing I learned this day was the importance of the heavy symbolism in every aspect of an actor’s Noh costume: the mask has symbolism reflecting predominant characteristics, the costume has symbolism reflecting some of their qualities (strengths or weaknesses) and the fan as well is used to give more information on that characters’ life.

When I found out every mask’s attributes were balanced in Yin and Yang, even the most minute details came to have meaning. This is a art form in which not only must the actors be dynamic and always aware of their movements, but they must also be aware of their costume’s dynamic qualities as well–since, afterall, even the slightest difference in the neck’s angle could result in the portrayal of very different strong emotions. It’s almost as though they have to be aware of a second body when acting, which is itself quite a spiritual and philosophical idea–they must become the characters portrayed by their masks, but also must separate themselves enough to know how to properly carry them and show their correct attributes.

Its no wonder that the Noh masks are considered to be powerful tools/conduits for gods and other deities: they have such strong personality and characteristics of their own that it would be hard to imagine otherwise. Noh is a tradition which involved the passing down and handling of, sometimes, ancient masks–the utmost care must be taken when handling these tools which adds an other dimension to the awareness actors must display with their costumes on and off the stage; Udaka-san portrayed that care perfectly every time he bowed to a mask before and after wearing it.

It would be easy in my opinion, to see a connection between the tradition of Noh and other religious (Buddhist or Shinto) ceremonies since often the same level of respect towards tools is required of participants–like Dairik’s constant bow-like motion each time he picked up and used a utensil during tea ceremony.

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