ITI's master teacher, Kanze Yoshimasa accounts his teaching experience in ITI, published in Kanze Kyukohkai's newsletter.
Teaching at ITI Drama School
Kanze Yoshimasa (観世喜正)
I have been teaching Noh in Intercultural Theatre Institute, a theatre school based in Singapore since 2001, and I taught the 7th generation of students for four weeks from January to March this year.
Singapore has a short history since independence and a small landmass (a little larger than Tokyo's 23 wards), and it is also an economic centre with diverse races and cultures.
The school is a theatre school established by the efforts of the late Kuo Pao Kun, who played an active part as a prominent director in the country, despite the lack of theatre and unique culture. Mr Pao Kun was dedicated to using Asian theatre as a foundation and was determined to spread it. He created a unique pedagogy that included traditional forms such as Japan’s Noh, China’s Beijing Opera and India’s Kutiyattam.
In response to that enthusiasm, Kanze Yoshimasa and Takashi Kuwata have provided practical tutelage at the same school for 18 years (Kennosuke Nakamori also participated in the performance).
As part of the training, the students begin by learning Japanese greetings such as "Onegai itashimasu" and "Arigato gozaimashita" before we start teaching the basics of the Noh movement such as Kamae and Suriashi, as well as the basics of the plays "Tsurukame", "Momijigari", "Hagoromo" etc — to create a programme that contains singing and dancing to the basic songs, same as the ones that are learned in Japan.
The students practice at least four hours a day, and about seven hours on some days. They then learn how to wear the yukata in the third week, how to sit upright, arrange the jiutai (chorus) as well as practice independently. In the end, the students were able to learn "Momijigari" and “Kantan", seven shimais (fan dances) while wearing hakamas, Noh masks and some of the costumes.
The students are very enthusiastic, have respect for Noh, and are deeply interested in Zeami's art theory. It is also a very multinational institution, with a number of students from Singaporeans, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Korea, as well as from an Australian theatre school that join only for the Noh programme. We taught about 17 students this year, and at most about 25 students each time.
Because it is a school, the training has to be completed in about three months, at the end of which, there will be a demonstration and an assessment at the end. And of course, all the classes are taught in English (with an interpreter to assist).
In addition to the cohorts mentioned above, I have taught nearly a hundred students in the past from France, Italy, Poland, the United States, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Macao, etc. for the past seven rounds. Many graduates are well-known actors, actresses, directors, leaders and researchers in their home countries, and in recent years there have been more cases of such graduates encouraging their juniors to enrol in this Singapore school. In addition, they also actively use the essence of Noh, which they learned at this school in their own theatre practice.
A student from the second cohort* Sankar Venkateswaran, owns an independent theatre company in India, and is a director who is about to present at the Kyoto University of Art and Design. His theatre company in Kerala, India, has a fan-like motif. They are making great use of the inspiration from Noh, such as putting in place a Noh stage-bridge called a Hashigakari in their theatre.
I think that the multinational graduates can communicate “the appeal of Noh” in various ways, which will greatly contribute to the internationalisation of Noh. Both Kanze and Kuwata have always looked forward to teaching in Singapore.
*Correction: Sankar is from the third cohort of ITI.
Translated from Japanese to English by A Yagnya