Dance Meets Drama

If you were too busy working on your tan last Saturday, you let a unique opportunity to learn about and interact with a 650 year-old tradition evaporate into the 85 degree air. At 1:30, only four students left the blazing sun outside and trickled into the dimly lit dance studio to participate in the enjoyable and informative Noh Workshop with Hikaru Uzawa, a professional female Noh performer from Japan. Dressed in a blue and grey kimono, Uzawa hid behind the curtain, delicately stitching a cord onto a pale blue costume (or shozoku) that Jeannine Anderson ’11 later got to try on. While finishing her project, she spoke to the small group in a mix of Japanese and English with the help of her interpreter, Sachi Ozawa ’99, and Teruyo Shimazu, Instructor in Japanese. The conversation covered silk worms, hand fans and the difficulties of making Noh accessible to younger audiences. “I learned a lot,” said Anderson. “Noh is so old, and it still exists. I think that’s really cool.” For the workshop, Uzawa chose to focus on Kanawa, one of hundreds of Japanese dramas. After explaining the plot, which depicts a woman’s demonic jealousy toward her ex-husband’s new wife, Uzawa showed photographs of the horned mask used in the production. “It looks not just angry but a little sad,” Ozawa said of the contorted mask, which she brought out and let Kira Wyckoff ’11 wear. “There was a special way to put [the mask] on,” explained Anderson. “You have to bow to it… To take it off, you have to turn it so the sweat doesn’t mess it up.” Halfway through the workshop, Uzawa announced, “Dancing lesson now.” The students followed her eagerly to center stage. Starting from a kneeling position, Uzawa demonstrated how to achieve the basic posture, a grounded stance with a curved back, stiff shoulders and rotated arms. The four students tried to mimic her, suppressing giggles and finding it difficult to believe that something this tricky could look so simple when performed. Soon, the students had learned how to walk properly, a real challenge given the way their posture limited motion. “Isn’t it amazing?” Shimazu commented, taking a picture of Anthony White ’10. “It looks like such a slow movement but it takes muscle control. You can walk only by sliding.” “The dancing was so hard because you have to use all these weird muscles at once,” said Anderson. “It’s all about keeping everything moving smoothly. Everything depends on the character. How fast you move and how many steps you take and how wide your arms are… everything is significant to that character.” “Noh exaggerates emotions, but it also masks them,” said Anderson. “It’s the movement that shows what’s going on.” Sadly, all but four of you really missed out on a great opportunity to experience Japanese culture in a hands-on workshop with a professional artist. Given another chance, would you stay outside? Noh way.