Last Sunday I attended the Seiran-Noh, a regular performance organised by Udaka Michishige, also featuring his two sons, Tatsushige and Norishige. This year Udaka-sensei and his elder son Tatsushige performed the Noh Futari Shizuka. The tsure part in this play is particularly challenging, both because it portrays a common woman who is possessed by the spirit of Shizuka Gozen, entailing a change in the interpretation of the character, and because of the aimai, the synchronised dance performed by tsure and shite, two identical characters, respectively a woman possessed by the spirit of Shizuka (tsure) and Shizuka herself (shite). Most masks we use in Noh seriously hinder sight, so that the actor completely loses peripheral vision. You can imagine how hard synchronised dance can be when you cannot see your partner, and music does not follow a metronome. I was astounded not only by the precision of shite and tsure, but also by the sense of harmony that father and son naturally created on stage, which was all the more interesting if considered within the context of the play.
Watching the two Shizukas on stage, and knowing the difficulty of dancing in such condition, I couldn’t help thinking how each of us has a double, another ‘me’ (or ‘you’) whom we know exists, even though we cannot see it. Most importantly, we cannot control it. It will dance close to you – you will hear the sound of its breath and steps – but you cannot clearly visualise it except for some fleeting instants, between the darkness of the mask and the light of the stage. The only thing you can do is adapt to it, or hint at a movement, hoping that it will adapt to you.