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Challenges to Transmitting Noh Outside Its Traditional Professional Channels

Sat, June 25, 8:30 to 10:20am, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 120


Noh is not only constantly “in motion” via its centuries old transmission as a living tradition, it is also “Asia in motion” through its increasingly wide transmission to performers outside Japan. This paper will consider the difficulty faced by such performers, who often lack access to direct transmission from master teachers, in upholding noh’s rigorous technical demands, as well as the decline in the amateur and audience base for noh in Japan itself, which leaves the continued rejuvenation of the art to rely on less traditional channels. Drawing on the author’s extensive training in both noh and ballet, the paper will discuss two aspects of noh that present a special challenge for its transmission outside its traditional professional channels, in Japan or elsewhere: its techniques have been traditionally transmitted integrally with the performance repertoire rather than as bare skills, and all performers are centrally engaged in creating a full piece in performance. (This differs from training and performance in Western music and dance, where skills are regularly taught separately from the repertoire, and many performers often have a more contingent role within a performance.) These aspects of noh are vital sources of its theatrical power, but also among the most difficult to transmit outside close master-student instruction within a tightly knit performance community. The following papers will explore several avenues of non-traditional noh training, allowing us to assess the hope they offer in spite of this difficulty.