Hatsubutai I


My Noh Debut – score for “Yuki”

My first public performance of Noh is in a week in Matsuyama, Shikoku – not in Kyoto – on November 3rd. I will be performing a recital piece from “Yuki” or “Snow,” which is based on a Chinese poem that likens snow flurries to the sleeves of a beautiful dancer. In the piece, I’m the spirit of snow, asking a Buddhist monk for his prayers that I might gain enlightenment.

Am I ready? I don’t really know. I don’t quite think so. There’s a special way of walking, sliding the feet along the stage without lifting the heels much and raising the toes a particular way at the end of each step that I can’t seem to coordinate with my arm and fan movements. At least I have all the basic movements memorized, and my voice doesn’t break anymore on my chant parts, which are all in chest voice. But isn’t it from there that all the work on style and emotional content begins?

How can I be snow? I remember all those cold mornings in Massachusetts, waking up to see a fresh blanket of snow over the ground, smoothing all the rough corners, hugging all the trees, houses, cars. The world looked magical those mornings, transformed into a world that shouldn’t be disturbed or damaged by entering into it. On those few mornings when sunlight broke through the clouds, the snow would glitter, the warm light belying the snow’s coldness. But most mornings the clouds blocked the sun, and the grey shadows of things were lost in the whiteness. The apartment building outside my window, the small trees in the lawn were darker grey, more distinct. The trees and buildings further away were light grey or vanished in the whiteness.

No one wanted to enter the cold snowy mornings from the warmth of a hot cup of tea in bed. I felt sympathy for the grounds worker who had to get up early to ride in the snow plow that would clear the snow even from in front of my own apartment. When I had to go to class, I would wear at least four layers, a wool scarf, hat, and mittens to go outside and still the cold wind pierced through me. Underneath all those layers, I lost myself and was only cold and afraid of slipping on the ice left behind by the snow plow.

How lonely snow must be, trying to embrace the whole world, but seeing all the living beings flee from it to warmer places. Purity and beauty, pure beauty pushing what it wants to embrace away from itself. Afraid to be hurt by the living things that will trample its beauty. How lonely snow must be, how easily hurt, how naive and a little vain.

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