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Noh changes with imagination | Tatsushige Udaka | TEDxKyotoUniversity TEDx Talks

The International Noh Institute

Udaka Tatsushige’s TEDxKyotoUniversity talk on Noh is finally available with English subtitles! Enjoy and let us know what you think!

Noh, a classical Japanese musical drama, is not just what you see with your eyes, but what see with your mind too! This talk/performance will show you that in interpreting Noh, imagination is your limit!

Tatsushige Udaka was born in Kyoto, and started his career in Kokata acting from the young age of three years old. He was trained by the 26th head of the Kongo School, Hinasori KONGO, as well as by his father, Michishige UDAKA. Performing since he was young, he has had extensive stage and teaching experience in Noh Threatre. He has travelled, performed, taught, and demonstrated Noh in Japan, South Korea, France, and the United States throughout the last decade. Currently, he is based in Kyoto.

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Symposium and Performance Demonstration Interactive Interplay: Waki and Ai-Kyōgen Roles in Noh

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JPARC – Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center Lecture Series
ARC – Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University

Symposium and Performance Demonstration
Interactive Interplay: Waki and Ai-Kyōgen Roles in Noh

Date November 17, 2015 15:00-20:00
Place: Ritsumeikan University, Kinugasa Campus. Art Research Center. Multipurpose room.。


This event consists of two parts. The afternoon symposium (in English with discussion in Japanese) will address the importance of waki and ai-kyōgen roles in late-Muromachi period noh with reference to building an interactive text of the play Funa Benkei for the JPARC database. In the evening demonstration (in Japanese), kyōgen and waki actors will discuss their roles in Funa Benkei, and perform portions of the play.

Symposium  15:00-17:30
15:00 Opening
15:20 Presentation (in English): ” Important auxiliary characters – the case of Funa Benkei and late Muromachi noh plays” by Dr. Lim Beng Choo, National University of Singapore
15:50 Presentation (in English): “The sonic comic: How kyōgen actors create a scenic soundscape” by Dr. Jonah Salz, Ryukoku University
16:30 Break
16:50 Presentation (in English): “Traditional Japanese Theater Websites and the Aims of the JPARC Website” by Dr. Diego Pellecchia
17:10 Round Table Discussion (in Japanese and English) “Purpose, Problems, and Perspectives on Creating Bilingual Interactive Texts, the case of Funa Benkei.” Discussants: Akama Ryō, Diego Pellecchia, Monica Bethe, others
17:40 Break (light refreshments will be provided)
Performance demonstration (in Japanese) 18:30-20:00
“Waki and Kyōgen Players in Late Medieval Noh, the case of Funa Benkei.”
Performers: Izumi Shinya (Kyogen actor, Izumi-ryū)
Arimatsu Ryōichi (Waki actor, Takayasu-ryū)
Oka Mitsuru (Waki actor, Takayasu-ryū)
Introductions: Diego Pellecchia

Towards a Community of ‘Amateur Creativity’ Research?

Here is a great review of the symposium ‘Amateur Creativity: Inter-disciplinary Perspectives’ – delighted to read that my paper on Amateurs in Noh Theatre was so well received!

Get Creative Research

Within days of beginning the Get Creative Research Project we came across the AHRC funded initiative, ‘Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space’, and were excited to find that a symposium coming out of the project would be taking place at the University of Warwick in mid-September. The Amateur Dramatics project – of which Helen Nicholson is the Principle Investigator – is a collaboration between Royal Holloway and the Universities of Exeter and Warwick, where co-Investigators Jane Milling and Nadine Holdsworth are based respectively. The project also involves two PhD projects, undertaken by Cara Gray and Sarah Penny.

Attending the symposium in Warwick on 17th and 18th September was a great opportunity to hear more about the work of the Amateur Dramatics initiative, and to engage with the work of researchers within theatre studies (and some from other disciplines, including media studies and anthropology) whose research…

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Thoughts on IFTR 2013

20130730-114826.jpgBack from the IFTR 2013 conference at the Institut del Teatre in Barcelona. Spanish organisers Boris Daussà-Pastor and Mercè Saumell did a terrific job coordinating what has been the biggest IFTR ever, with more than 800 participants (!), distinguished keynote speakers and thought-inspiring presentations. Japanese theatre was present in various working groups, not only in the Asian Theatre working group, coordinated by Mōri Mitsuya and Nagata Yasushi, but also in Dance, Theatre and Religion, Theatre Historiography, and others. I particularly appreciated Tsutsumi Harue (Seijo University) on ‘The Production of Hyōryū kitan Seiyō kabuki (The Wanderer’s Strange Story: a Western Kabuki) (1879) and the Journey of Iwakura Embassy (1871-1873) and Hiranoi Chieko (Hosei University) on the ‘History of Local Amateur Kabuki, Ji-shibai, the latter being particularly pertinent to my current work on Noh amateurs. Noh theatre, as expected, only had one representative – myself. My presentation was on the ethical dilemma of a Noh scholar-practitioner who is divided between the loyalty to a teacher and the ethos it represents, and the need for freedom to formulate and express criticism.

The lack of Noh at IFTR cannot but point to the need of a more international (intercultural?) and interdisciplinary approach to Noh in the wider context of theatre and performance studies. We ‘new generation of Noh scholars’ should join forces and open up the knowledge of Noh qua performance, not only as study material for translators and historians.

IFTR New Scholars’ Prize

iftrI am happy to announce that I was selected as a winner of the IFTR International Federation for Theatre Research New Scholars’ Prize 2012-2013 for my essay “Ezra Pound and the Politics of Noh Films”, which I hope to publish soon. I will receive the prize on the occasion of the IFTR annual conference in Barcelona 21-26 July 2013, which I look forward to attend.

This is one of those situations where an academic who also blogs about academic topics would like to reveal more about his work but cannot because he has to wait for the actual paper to be out there lest his stuff is illegitimately taken by some ill-intentioned guy (it happens all the time). See Travis Seifman’s thoughts on academic posting online. Anyway I am very excited about receiving the prize, and I can’t wait to publish the article!

See you guys in Barcelona!

D.

Hosei University Noh Research Institute – 60th Anniversary Symposium

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! : )

24/10 ‘MANABU’: giornata di studio per ricercatori italiani in Giappone

This post is about a research seminar that I have organised in Kyoto, coming up in a few days. This is probably my first post in Italian, so I just wanted to warn my readers. I will report about the event (in English) towards the end of the month so stay tuned ^^

La tradizione oggi: uno sguardo interdisciplinare sul teatro giapponese

Seminario della serie ‘MANABU’, Giornate di studio dei dottorandi, borsisti e ricercatori italiani in Giappone

La giornata riunisce quattro ricercatori con formazione e interessi diversi (antropologia, studi giapponesi, studi teatrali, regia), e si propone di investigare la relazione fra tradizione e modernità nel teatro giapponese da un ampio spettro di prospettive (letterarie, critiche e pratiche). Gli interventi spazieranno dall’adattamento Nō dei manga al rapporto fra corpo e tecnologia, dall’insegnamento in ambito interculturale alla storiografia del teatro. A una presentazione del ricco panorama della ricerca sul teatro giapponese oggi, seguirà una discussione nella quale i partecipanti confronteranno teorie ed esperienze, incoraggiando un produttivo scambio di approcci che possa gettare le basi per ulteriori iniziative in futuro.

Il seminario si terrà il giorno 24 Ottobre 2012 presso la sede della Scuola Italiana di Studi sull’Asia Orientale (ISEAS) a Kyoto 4, Yoshida Ushinomiya-chō, Sakyō-ku

PROGRAMMA:

11:00-11:10 Introduzione
11:10-11:30 Matteo Casari (Università di Bologna) Il Nō e il Manga, un primo sguardo
11:30-11:50 Katja Centonze (Universität Trier) L’Erma Bifronte: Eclettismo nelle arti performative del Giappone che guarda alla tradizione e alla contemporaneità
11:50-12:10 Monique Arnaud (Università IUAV di Venezia) La regia come dimensione nascosta
12:10-12:30 Diego Pellecchia (Scuola Italiana di Studi sull’Asia Orientale) I confini della tradizione: Educazione al teatro giapponese oggi

Per informazioni:
ISEAS Scuola Italiana di Studi sull’Asia Orientale (ISEAS)
Tel 075-751-8132
Fax 075-751-8221
E-mail iseas@iseas-kyoto.org

 

IFTR Conference 2011 Osaka

This year I will be speaking at the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) conference in Osaka 7-12 August 2011. IFTR is one of the biggest international theatre conferences and I am looking forward to participate for the first time, and to do it in Japan. I am particularly excited about the discussions that will develop from the encounter of Western scholars belonging to Anglo-Saxon academia and Japanese scholars, which I think are worlds apart when it comes to background and methodology. This year’s theme is ‘Tradition, Innovation, Community’ and I will be talking within a panel with Prof. David Wiles, theatre historian, my supervisor at Royal Holloway University of London, and Janne Risum from Aarhus University, Copenhagen. Our panel will focus on the inter-relation of aesthetics and ethics in intercultural context and my paper will specifically look at ethics and politics in Ezra Pound’s reception of Noh theatre. I have done quite a lot of work on Pound and for my PhD and I am really looking forward to present it to the IFTR audience. Hope to see you guys soon in Osaka!

Some reflections on the Symposium Japanese Theatre Transcultural

I am back from the Symposium Japanese Theatre Transcultural: German and Italian Perspectives held in Trier University in collaboration with Università Cà Foscari, Venice 27-29 November 2009. Thanks to a wonderful organisation and to the good-will of a good number of students from the Japanologie department (from Germany, Belgium, Japan, etc) the conference was a success and all participants were satisfied with the fruitful discussions on the theme of the encounter of Japanese theatre with Italy and Germany. Organisers Andreas Regelsberg and Stanca Scholz-Cionca did a great job, indeed.

Germany boasts a huge tradition both in Japanese studies and in theatre studies: it is very much interesting to attend conferences outside the anglo-saxon environment and notice so many differences in style and scholarly approach. Any international student working in the UK knows well how British research tends to be critical-theory oriented, sometimes to the extreme: PhD students are now sorted by ‘who they use’ (be it Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, Bourdieu, etc.) rather then what they write about. It is almost impossible to write a paper without at least one or two references to post-modern philosophers, whose theories are often inappropriately borrowed and abused. Theory for theory’s sake. For people like me, coming from a different academic background, it is hard to cope with what over here sometimes seems as the only possible way of academic enquiry. I have heard similar comments from students from France, Hong Kong, Greece, Germany, Japan, etc. It goes without saying that critical theories offer transversal perspectives necessary for the development of a thesis. However, the oversimplification and labelling of modern philosopher has created a division between ‘primary sources’ on one hand, and ‘academic tools’ on the other. Not to mention the fact that ‘acceptable’ critical perspectives only come from recent and mostly, of course, Western philosophy.

The most interesting aspect of the symposium was the combination of papers by scholars and practitioners – if this is rather common in UK and USA, in Germany and Italy it is still rare. This has been a successful attempt at an attempt at bridging the fictional gap between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ as well as between ‘Japan’ and ‘the West. There is so much to learn from the language of the practitioner, so different from that of the onlooker. Practice is all that theatre is about, after all. We are all looking forward for this to happen again.

Japanese Theatre Transcultural: German and Italian Perspectives

Next week I will talk at the International Symposium Japanese Theatre Transcultural: German and Italian Perspectives 27 – 29 November 2009. Universität Trier, Germany. Here is the abstract of my paper, entitled ‘The International Noh Institute of Milan: Transmission of Ethics and Ethics of Transmission in the transnational Context’.

The paper explores the intersection of aesthetics and ethics in Noh practice. Noel Pinnington (2006) has discussed the primacy of the concept of michi as ‘path through life’ in the writings of Zeami and Konparu Zenchiku, where spiritual and ethical virtues are a necessary condition for aesthetic achievement. Today Noh is taught in various contexts outside Japan, reflecting different agendas of teachers and trainees. How are the ethical aspects of Noh considered in contemporary non-Japanese teaching environments? What are the implications of introducing the ethics embedded in Noh practice outside its original context? Taking on Levinas’s ‘ethics of responsibility’, the paper will use theories of ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ (Lave & Wenger 1992) to explore the community of learners and the teaching methodology of the International Noh Institute.