Developed during the 13th century is an Asian “theatrical” dance form known as Noh Mai. This “theatrical” dance style is said to have originated in Japan, and was said to have been created by an artist called Kanami and his son Zeami. According to tradition, a Noh Mai Dance performance includes the enacting of five specially written plays. Furthermore, this theatrical dance form involves the telling of traditional tales found in Japanese literature. In addition, it is extremely classical in nature, and has been “codified and regulated” using a system known as “iemoto”.

a. History/origin of the Noh Mai:

It was during the 8th century that Noh Mai first originated in Japan. It was then that a form of theatre called “Sarugaku” was developed from “Sangaku”, a form of entertainment similar to the circus, and originated from China.  Furthermore, it was then the fusion of elements belonging to the sangaku, dengaku (i.e. a form of celebration related to the sowing of the rice plant), sarugaku, shirabyoshi (i.e. a traditional dance), and gagaku (i.e. a traditional form of music and dance) that then led to the creation of this theatrical dance style.

b. Costumes used in the Noh Mai Dance:

Mainly “extravagant” costumes are worn by the performers in this theatrical dance. They include silk robes known as “Shozoku”, along with wigs, hats, props such as fans. In addition, the performers also need to wear costumes that represent the region that the play represents. For example, a bamboo hat would be worn when the performer is enacting a play that talks about the country life.

c. Music involved in the Noh Mai:

Music is an integral part of this “theatrical dance”, and includes the use of a chorus and a “hayashi” ensemble. Furthermore, the instruments used in this ensemble include a hip drum called “otsuzumi”, a shoulder drum called “kotsuzumi”, and a flute.

d. Training availability and the technique involved in the Noh Mai:

In terms of technique, this “theatrical dance” is mainly performed using two specific styles. They are as follows:

  1. Geki Noh: Is basically a style pertaining to the theatrical element (i.e. narration of a story)
  2. Furyu Noh: Is basically a style that is related to dance, and involves the use of extravagant stage actions, acrobats etc.

As for training centres/schools, there are a few available throughout the world for those interested in gaining knowledge in this “theatrical dance” style that has evolved from the “Land of the rising sun” i.e. Japan.

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