The Kyōgen Body

Zoom kyōgen training. A phenomenon I never thought I would experience. In fact, if you had asked me a few years ago if I thought remote kyōgen training would be possible, I would have been doubtful. But here we are! We’re very grateful to have a teacher that’s willing to embrace such an unconventional teaching method. I think the challenges of remote teaching are pretty obvious, but there have been some surprising benefits to working through this medium. It seems that it’s becoming clearer to everyone how so much of kyōgen is informed by the physicality – how the movements, lines, rhythms, and staging all stem from the kamae, the basic standing posture. We focused quite a bit on footwork for our first lesson. Even though it is unlikely that we will ever see the lower halves of our body in the performances due to the framing of the cameras, the posture and movement of our upper bodies changes drastically once we are grounded (“koshi wo ireru”). Sennojō Sensei was able to demonstrate this to give students a visual of how movement can still be “kyōgen-esque” even on a virtual program.

We are also learning how to laugh. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I find myself struggling to stay connected to my body in these strange times, aside from feeling generally stiff and crunchy. An inside-out approach to laughing in performance would require me to muster up an emotion, perhaps one that is difficult to access these days, and then manifest that emotion physically. This seems like a lot of pressure. The outside-in approach embedded within kata, however, allows me to let go of any emotional burden and instead focus on the physical. My breath, my rhythm, my technique, my timing and most importantly, my body – down to the tiniest detail. Then, without forcing it, the joy begins to come naturally. It’s like finding a backdoor to accessing a part of myself when my mind has barricaded the front door. And inevitably, I feel lighter afterwards. My body and my brain have let something go that I didn’t realize I was hanging onto. Kyōgen has at once reminded me of the importance of laughter and the importance of listening to my body.

 – Jane Traynor, MushZooms 2.0 and Mango Yamabushi

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