Author Archives: Diego Pellecchia

About Diego Pellecchia

Noh theatre scholar and practitioner.

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)

Udaka Michishige awarded prestigious prize

Udaka Michishige has been awarded the Saika Prize 2019 by the Nōgaku Research Center of Hōsei University. The Prize was established in April 1988 to commemorate the donation of the Kanze Shinkurō Family Archive. It is awarded yearly to individual performers or institutions who have distinguished themselves for their efforts in the development and transmission of nō and kyōgen.

Udaka Michishige has been awarded the prize because of his outstanding career as actor and mask carver, but also as educator of both Japanese students, many of whom have become professional performers, and international students, with the International Noh Institute.

Documentary: ‘Noh men – the spirit of noh’

Japanese historian and documentarist Jeffrey Dym (Sacramento State University) has recently released ‘Noh men – the spirit of noh’, a full-feature documentary on noh masks. The excellent documentary explores different aspects of noh mask making and use on stage and features numerous interviews with different mask specialists and professionals, among which Udaka Keiko, daughter of Udaka Michishige. The rich materials and clear delivery of the content make this documentary particularly suitable for educational purposes.

Udaka Seiran Noh 2018 – Hanjo and Kuzu

The 2018 Udaka Seiran Noh performance will take place on Sunday 9th September at the Kongō Noh Theatre, in Kyoto. This year’s event features two plays: Hanjo (starring Udaka Norishige) and Kuzu, performed in the hakutō variant (starring Udaka Michishige).
Hanjo(班女)tells the story of Hanago, a female entertainer working at an inn in Nogami, who falls in love with Fukakusa no Shōshō, a gentleman from Kyoto. The two exchange fans before he departs. Heartbroken, Hanago cannot but think of her lover, and is expelled from the inn. She then reaches Kyoto, where she entertains people at Tadasu-no-mori, near Shimogamo Shrine. She is famous for her songs and dances about Hanjo, a Chinese courtesan who wrote verses about her lost love. In the meantime, Fukakusa-no-shōshō has been looking for Hanago. Having heard that she performs at Tadasu-no-mori, he visits there. The two recognize the fans they once exchanged and are happily reunited.
Kuzu(国栖)offers an entirely different kind of atmosphere. Fearing for his life after being attacked by a rival, Emperor Tenmu (interpreted by a child actor) has escaped to the Yoshino mountains along with his retainers. There he meets an elderly couple that offers him shelter and food. The old man first serves a local fish to the Emperor, who only eats half of it. He then releases the other half in the river, and the fish miraculously comes back to life. This is interpreted as a sign that the Emperor will be able to return to the Capital safely. Soon after this, soldiers sent by Tenmu’s rival reach the elderly couple’s house, but the old man manages to hide the Emperor under a boat. Later the Buddhist guardian god Zao Gongen and a Celestial Maiden appear and dance in celebration of the Emperor.

The 19th Udaka Seiran Noh no Kai 2018

Place: Kongō Noh Theatre, Kyoto.
Date: 9 September 2018 (Sun)
Time: Doors open at 12:30 the performance starts at 13:00 and is expected to finish at around 17:00.
Program:
  • Greetings and introduction: Udaka Tatsushige
  • Noh: Hanjo (Shite: Udaka Norishige)
  • Kyōgen: Niku jūhachi
  • Noh: Kuzu – hakutō (Shite: Udaka Michishige)
Tickets:
Front seats・8,000円 Side seats・6,000円 Corner seats・5,000円 Students・3,000円
For tickets or other inquiries contact us.

Video: ‘The Spirit of Noh’

Singaporean cinematographer Edwin Lee (Fallout Media) just published a mini-documentary entitled ‘The Spirit of Noh’, starring Udaka Michishige. Edwin’s lens shows the beauty of noh masks (all of which were carved by Michishige himself) and costumes with extreme close-ups and slow-motion sequences, techniques rarely used in documentaries featuring noh. Check it out and let us know what you think!

‘The Spirit of Noh (能)’ – oldest drama in the world from Edwin Lee (Fallout Media) on Vimeo.

Udaka Michishige on Kyoto Journal 90

An extensive interview with Noh master-actor and mask carver Udaka Michishige features in the latest issue of Kyoto Journal, one of the most elegant and content-rich magazines produced in Kyoto. The article, written by noh enthusiast Mizuho Toyoshima, is enriched by gorgeous photographs by Pedro Medeiros and Fabio Massimo Fioravanti. Following the Kyoto Journal tradition, the issue is beautifully crafted, with elegant design and high-quality paper. Purchase this issue or subscribe to KJ here.

INI Trainees: Tina Dermois

The INI Summer Intensive Program 2017 is now over. Here in Kyoto, a cool breeze is blowing and the hills that surround the city are getting ready to turn into their gorgeous autumn color. As always after one of our intensive workshop, we publish comments from the participants on our blog. Here we introduce trainee Tina Dermois. Tina is a masters student from Leiden University, currently enrolled in the Study in Kyoto Program at Ritsumeikan University. She is interested in Japanese arts and crafts and is currently working on a thesis on Noh prints. This summer she took the INI Summer Intensive Program in order to deepen her knowledge of Noh through practice.

Diego Pellecchia, course coordinator.


My experience with the INI

by Tina Dermois

Before one of my fellow students at Leiden University told me about this program, I had never heard about it before. I knew that there are lessons provided for amateurs, but it had never occurred to me that it would be possible to participate in this kind of intensive program. However, when I found out about this opportunity, I was immediately hyped up. Of course, I was still not sure if I would be able to attend this summer, but it would be a good chance to come in contact with Noh other than books and videos and a valuable addition to my practical knowledge for my final MA Thesis on Noh in woodblock prints. There is no better way to understand an art form than by practicing itself.

To be honest, when I was invited to participate I was not sure what I was supposed to expect of the okeiko and the teacher(s). I read through the schedule, but I was still not sure if the lessons were going to be strict or the opposite, or if I would be able to remember a whole piece. So, I was quite nervous the first day at practice. We started the day with some general explanation about noh, their masks and costumes by Toshishige Udaka, the oldest son of Michishige Udaka, and Diego Pellecchia. After that, we had to walk or rather glide across the floor. It was really complicated because you were supposed to keep your posture straight and relaxed while moving to the other side of the stage and keep your body at height. Throughout the lessons, it was quite hard thinking about all the tips that the teachers gave us, but in the end, everyone was able to remember the whole routine. Moreover, these past ten days of practice were also interesting because we were able to follow classes from three different teachers and observe how they all performed the same piece in a slightly different way up close which was a rare opportunity. This made it also a little more confusing to remember the movements sometimes when we were to imitate them.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What was also really nice about the program was that it was quite diverse. We did not only practice dancing but also chanting and meditating. Throughout the ten days, there was a comfortable atmosphere where we could ask many questions to the actors while having tea and a snack.

However, what I liked the most was the opportunity to visit Noh performances not only indoors, but also outdoors. The first performance that we were lucky to see the final rehearsals for one of the pieces we visited. The other one was performed at Fushimi Inari, a famous shrine in Kyoto which became one of the most memorable Noh performances I have ever seen thanks to the setting. The performance began just when the sun was setting and enveloped the stage, shining on the mask and the hair decorations of the main actor mystifying the whole scene while the wind was blowing causing the leaves to softly rustle. Lastly, we were able to attend a performance inside the temple Hōrinji, where we were sitting on the same “stage” as the rite was acted out. The actor was so close to us that it was almost impossible not to feel the power and spirituality of the role and the performer.

Thanks to the classes and the performances provided by INI, I will never be able to look at Noh in the same way. It was an unforgettable experience and if I have the chance I would definitely want to participate once more.

Congratulations! INI summer intensive 2017

The INI summer intensive program 2017 is now over and we would like to take the chance to thank all participants and instructors! This year for the first time Udaka Michishige was joined by his sons Tatsushige and Norishige as main instructors. It has been a wonderful edition of our summer program, with many highlights, such as observing the rehearsals for two full noh plays and attending many performances both open-air (Hagoromo and Kokaji at Fushimi-Inari Taisha, Makura-jido at Horinji in Arashiyama) and indoors (Nonomiya and Nue at the Kongo Noh Theatre). While the main target of the workshop is to introduce participants to the basics of noh theatre chant and dance, it is very important that they can get as much exposure to performance as possible. This is often difficult to achieve during short training periods because noh typically is performed in one-off events, without repetitions. We are glad that our participants could enjoy such a variety of performances this year.

As for the workshop, this year we decided to start with a difficult piece for an absolute beginner: the shimai dance excerpt from the Noh Shojo (‘The Wine Elf’). This dance involves complex fan routines and combines mimetic and abstract movements. Despite the difficulty, all participants worked hard and could successfully memorize the dance in addition to the chant. Finally, a selected few had the privilege to perform the dance wearing the shojo mask, normally only used in the full performance with costumes and mask.

We hope that participants will keep up their interest in noh and that they will visit us again in Kyoto!

— Diego Pellecchia, Program Manager

INI – Summer Intensive Program 2017

The INI – International Noh Institute is now accepting applications for its 2017 Summer Intensive Program. Participants will take part in an intensive training period, during which they will study Noh chant and dance at the INI headquarters in Kyoto with Kongō school Noh actors Udaka Michishige, Udaka Tatsushige and Udaka Norishige. In addition, they will be able to observe the rehearsal and to attend the Udaka Seiran Noh performance. During the program, participants will learn about various aspects of noh, including masks and costumes. The program is coordinated by Dr Diego Pellecchia (Kyoto Sangyo University). Application deadline: May, 1st 2017.

Program highlights:

  • Train intensively in noh chant and dance, following the traditional methods of the Kongō school.
  • Practice in a small group at the okeikoba, private training space of a noh master, for an immersive experience.
  • Observe the rehearsals of a professional noh performance.
  • Watch two noh performances: at a Buddhist temple (free of charge) and at the Kongo Noh theatre (included in the participation fee)
  • Experience living in Kyoto, the heart of Japanese traditional culture.

INI SUMMER INTENSIVE PROGRAM 2017

Requirements: Anyone is welcome to join – no previous knowledge of Noh is required. Lessons are given in English and/or Japanese. Past year program attendees are entitled to the repeater discount of 10,000JPY, as shown below.

Capacity: 3-5 participants

Place: INI Training Space, Kyoto

Period: September 4 – 14 2017, every day

Fees (in Japanese yen)

Regular 60,000
Repeater 50,000

Fees include:

  • Regular: chant/dance lessons, basic materials (according to their level), Udaka Seiran Noh ticket, INI certification of completion of the introductory course.
  • Repeater: chant/dance lessons, basic materials (according to their level), Udaka Seiran Noh ticket, INI certification of completion of the intermediate course. Audiovisual materials to continue dance and chant practice from home.

Fees do not include:

  • Tabi white split-toe socks (around 700JPY)
  • Kongō-style Noh dance fan (5000JPY).
  • Transportation, accommodation, and any other personal expenses.

Activities calendar: September 2017

Lessons will take place 10:00-15:00 at the INI training space in Iwakura, Kyoto.

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-17-44-10

How to apply: send us an email at ini.kyoto[at]gmail.com Please attach your C.V. and a brief statement of interest.

Application deadline: May, 1st 2017

*Late applications will be considered only if places are still available. The program will be cancelled if it does not reach the minimum number of participants