Sunday, July 20, 2008
Where am I from?
This summer seems to be the time to catch up to everything, as I'm in the process of upgrading everything from hardware to software. It's tedious! This is an email I sent to a friend, and I have been sending to several people about it also. It seems I should have put it up on the blog here long ago. I went to Japan to visit my family in March, and this is about a performance I saw.
"The day before I left I saw an extraordinary performance of a Kabuki actor (female character) Fukusuke Nakamura. I'm collaborating next year with one of the Shamisen master named Mojibe Tokiwazu IV, who organized the event; as I am curating the Music From Japan festival 2009 (March in NYC and DC). Mr. Tokiwazu arranged the music of Chopin for his Shamisen orchestra (!), and Mr. Nakamura danced to the music in Kabuki style wearing a full-fledged Kimono costume (they said they chose Chopin to suit their recent Paris performance). It was so shocking; I (heterosexual female) was completely convinced of his femininity, which is free of vulgarity of any kind such as 'drag queen' here. He was so feminine in all his movements and character, while projecting with a force of a male--this must be very akin to what a Castrato was. Usually Kabuki actors dance to the music of Kabuki, but the fact he danced to western Romantic music, really threw me off balance :)
Then I realized it was only me who was flipping out; no body in the audience of a full-house, both Japanese male and female, seems to flinch. Then I realized my sensibility has become completely 'Americanized', being somewhat scandalized or shocked by such a gender-bending and artistically superb display in public performance. Have I become so puritan living in the USA for too long?? I just wondered :) Seriously Mr. Nakamura would put the most convincing American drag queen to shame. They said they had a fantastic reception in Paris, but I imagined how would general American audience take this. When I went backstage, Mr. Nakamura, who was still in his costume, was still in his female character greeting people as a 'woman'. It was kind of hard to imagine him being heterosexual, but he got a wife and children, so did his father who was also a 'female' actor. I really would like to collaborate with him some day. They said he is one of the only traditional Kabuki actors who are adventurous, open-minded and willing to go avant garde like this. (dancing to western music)
Also, I saw some female audience wearing Kimono 'professionally'; i.e. professional women = Geishas. Being a Geisha also means that she has to be an accomplished dancer, singer, an instrumentalist to entertain her clients. The Geishas come to Kabuki, I was told, to LEARN HOW TO MOVE LIKE A FEMALE from the male Kabuki masters such as Mr. Nakamura. The picture is Mr. Nakamura in the costume of "Musume Dojoji".
The performance was in Tsukiji, Hama-Rikyu Hall ('beach palace residence' of the Emperor) attached to the headquarters of the Asahi News paper, very close to the fish market where tourists go to see the fish auctions at 4AM in the morning.