Studying nō with the INI – Valentin Gabelier

It has been a little bit more than three years now since I started to study with Udaka-sensei and it’s difficult to summarize what it has given me on a personal level and how it has influenced my work. However, I would like to try to describe some of my experiences, thoughts, and impressions.

     I’m currently pursuing a PhD in Kyoto City University of Art. I have an interdisciplinary approach in which I use sound, video, sculpture, installation and performance. My research is focused on the plural and shifting nature of voice. I consider voice as a privileged medium to transform our delimitations, to go beyond the borders between the self and the otherness, the body and its environment.

     I first encountered Nō through a sound recording that I found in a library in France. I was deeply moved and shaken by the voices of both the chorus and the musicians, and for a long time I was mainly interested in Nō for its unique chant and its music. 

     So, when I started to go to Udaka-sensei’s okeiko, I was thinking of just studying the chant for only few months for my research. And here I am 3 years later, learning how to perform dances accompanied by music. By following Udaka-sensei’s teaching, and being able to see his other students’ okeiko, I started to understand the beauty of Nō dance and how the chant, the dance, the music and all the scenic aspects are inextricably linked to each other.

     After learning more about the staging and the narrative, I found very beautiful the unique relation between the voice and the self in Nō, where the same character can be embodied at the same time by the voice of the shite and the multiple voices of the chorus, by the body of the shite and by the mask.

     Considering my art work and my research, Nō has taught me a lot, not only about the use of the voice, but about all the performative aspects:  the ways of using your body, the use of space, the tension, the intention, the relation with the audience, the construction of all the layers that overlap to form this very sharp shape and powerful energy.

     When I first discovered Nō and started to read about it, I learned that it was transmitted from father to son, so for a long time, I thought that this world was inaccessible to common people, and even less so to foreigners. Therefore, I had never thought that I could learn Nō one day. So when Diego introduced me to Udaka-sensei, I felt incredibly lucky. Udaka-sensei’s very warm welcome, the very relaxed discussions we had while drinking tea before each okeiko, helped me to feel at ease. And maybe above all, his dedication to Nō as both an actor and a teacher made me understand how deep and rich this performative art is.

     Nō belongs to the kind of art that is limitless, the more you learn about it the more you realize you don’t know. I love this sensation, though it can be dizzying sometimes. Today I keep learning and discovering things that still amaze me and give me a richer understanding of Nō.

     On a personal level, being able to learn from Udaka-sensei and his two sons and to witness their total commitment and dedication to their art is very inspiring and pushes me to give the best of myself in my art production as well. Their teaching keeps making me more focused, brings me self-awareness, self-confidence, and a very precious and particular sensitivity that profoundly influence my work and my daily life.

     I am very happy to share these moments with all the INI members and I want to thank Udaka-sensei and his family for their great benevolence and the very special attention they give us. The practice of Nō opened new horizons to me and I am glad to know that I still have so much to learn and discover from it.

valentingabelier.com

“Talk to me” Video installation (2017)

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