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Contemporary Noh Theater a success!

Charmaine Patricia Warren | 11/9/2017, 3:35 p.m.
The recent production of the dance/drama at Japan Society, “Left-Right-Left” “…was developed based on the never-seen-before concept of combining noh ...

The recent production of the dance/drama at Japan Society, “Left-Right-Left,” according to co-producer Masayuki Nakumara (director/executive producer) of the Yokohama Noh Theater, “…was developed based on the never-seen-before concept of combining noh music and contemporary dance.”

Luca Veggetti, the Italian director/choreographer, confessed his long-held draw to noh, and so, for this coproduction with Japan Society, all these deep-seated wants were met. Some customary parts—the performance space/stage, a large area with a single strip of halogen light overhead with the audience placed in the front and on the sides, white tabi socks worn by all performers and traditional noh musicians; deep and guttural sounds from Genjiro Okura on the small noh hand drum and Rokurobyoe Fujita on the noh flute; significant to the “nothingness” in noh—were all in place. And although for this iteration, where melding the past with the contemporary was a decided task, here, without a covered stage, nondescript pants with sleeveless tops instead of grand costumes, no masks and no large tree sculpted against the back wall, Veggetti’s contemporary noh was substantial.

Veggetti’s cast, ranging in experience and age, are phenomenal. Their noh stories come through in exaggerated, mask-less expressions, and they glide across the floor, in solo after mesmerizing solo. The elder, butoh dancer Akira Kasai, is first. He begins with small circles and other careful designs in space while the others are still on the edges, and then, one-by-one, another rises, shares the space and leaves only one to begin another equally fine-tuned solo, each building to swift limbs through the air, or fast drops to the floor. The butoh-trained dancer Yukio Suzuki follows, and then it is contemporary dancer Megumi Nakamura’s turn. Although his words are not quite clear, Rinzo Nagayama, the child noh actor, pierces the air with his recitation of passages from traditional noh plays “Okina” and “Hagoromo.”

“Left-Right-Left” was presented as part of Japan Society’s “Noh-Now Series,” which runs until Dec. 9 with theater presentations. Yoko Shioya is the artistic director.