DIVERSECITY KLIAF2017 – Entranced : An Evening with a Ghost

Yours truly has always been fascinated by Japanese culture, art and dance.. and among these, the Japanese Noh Theatre..

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Stemming from ritual offering dances in Nara during the Heian period (794-1185), noh is said to be created during the latter half of the Kamakura period (1185-1333) and the early part of the Muromachi period 1336-1573. With the patronage of the shōgunate and high-ranking noblemen, noh is part of the Muromachi period’s popular arts including Zen Buddhism and ink painting. The art of noh is listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

Noh theater is structured around song and dance. With slow movements, poetic language, monotonous tones and rich and heavy costumes, noh stories are usually drawn from legend, history, literature and contemporary events and related to dreams, supernatural worlds, ghosts and spirits.

One key element of noh would be the masks which the shite, or main performer wears. They tell the audience what kind of character is being portrayed. Frequently used masks represent demons and spirits, as well as women and men of various ages. These masks are painstakingly carved from blocks of Japanese cypress. Their three dimensional properties allow skilled actors to induce a variety of expressions with changes in head orientation.

I might have been to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, but sadly, since I was on a budget and keen to see as much sceneries as I can, I did not get to visit a noh theatre.  So when I got to know that the DiverseCity KL International Arts Festival 2017 has some shows, it was imperative I took the opportunity to watch it…

It definitely was such a privilege for us Malaysians that Malaysian Aida Redza was given the trust to collaborate with the theater Master, Naohiko San – who is a Noh master, playwright, theatre director and scholar, and whose family lineage in the art of Noh goes back to over 600 years-, to combine western dance dynamics with ancient restraints.

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Entranced: An Evening with a Ghost is a haunting weave of dance, installations, visuals, sounds and vocals. This mixed media production brings together – for the first time – two forms that are, on the surface, completely different in approach: the dynamism of contemporary Southeast Asian trance-ritual; and the ancient Japanese Noh drama traditions of restraint and potential. And yet there are also commonalities and cohesions in the two forms. At its centre, Entranced explores the archetypal and metaphorical significance of the ghost as it inhabits the shared worlds of ritual  ceremonies and Noh principles that relate to dreams, supernatural worlds, guardian spirits, and the host of heroes and heroines.

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The result is a hypnotic, eclectic piece of choreography and movement featuring the performer Aida Redza and Noh master Naohiko Umewaka, with dancers Rathimalar Govindarajoo and Kaede Takaya.  Visual mapping by Ammar Khalifah, soundscapes by Tadashi Yonago and Syahreez Redza, and set installations by Alvin Neoh Chai Liang create ghostly sounds and visuals – of entranced love between the living and the non-
living, between mortals and immortals. And all is overlaid with the drifting poetic raptures of A. Samad Said. Taken together, all these elements and performers encapsulate a choreographic conversation – the spirit of keeping the guardians and ghosts forever alive and timeless.

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I was there at the Theatre KuAsh in Taman Tun Dr Ismail with my mini me aka partner in crime, and while I enjoyed it, I was kinda worried that as a kid, she might not get or understand the play as it was rhythmically slow and poetic.. but when it was over, my 13 year old declared it was a 10/10 performance for her.. and she loved it…

So I guess I have a little performing art enthusiast or culture vulture here.. hehehe..

Too bad this play is already over, but do not miss out on other amazing DiverseCity KLIAF 2017 performances as well do follow TradeWinds Arts Exchange to see if you might be able to catch it in another venue or place on a later time..

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